In the Garden:
Lower South
November, 2012
Regional Report

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Coleus is one of many plants that can bring colorful interest to a shady area where turfgrass is performing poorly.

Fall Transitions

A garden is a never-finished work in progress. That is one of the things that makes gardening so enjoyable and rewarding. Our gardens and landscapes evolve over time. Maybe our aesthetic preferences change a little, or new plants come on the scene that we want to grow, or some old existing plants outgrow their space.

Fall is a time when I'm especially aware of these transitions while taking a stroll through my garden and landscape. As warm season plants decline and the new cool season plantings come to the fore, the seasonal "changing of the guard" is evident. But there is more to notice at this time of the year. Landscape plants have just endured the heat of summer and some are not performing their best. They may need a move to a spot with more shade, less shade, or better drainage. Fall is the best time to make such a move.

While plants always look great in the nursery catalogs or in another garden elsewhere, they may prove to be less well-adapted to our garden site and climate. I'm especially impatient with disease or insect prone plants as I don't enjoy spending my gardening time spraying. Fall is the best planting season for most perennials and woody ornamentals including vines, trees and shrubs. So it is time to make the call on whether some plants stay or go.

Looking around the landscape with the four seasons in mind helps me when I'm considering some fall transitions too. What is blooming in spring, summer, and fall? What is evergreen or has other winter interest? Would some berrying plants be a nice addition here or there?

There is a turf area that is really struggling in the dense shade of an oak tree. I'm considering adding some shade loving groundcovers and other plants and redesigning the area with a bark mulched pathway and sitting bench. That would sure be nice next summer when the thermometer blows its top! Any shrubs or perennials in the plans should be planted soon for best results.

The vegetable garden is about to transition to winter when there are fewer crops hardy enough to hang in there. I've wanted to redesign some areas and create a more aesthetically pleasing raised bed design. This would be a great time to start that process as the first freeze takes out my warm season crops.

Then there are those shrubs out front against the house that I've been in hand to hand combat with for several years, trying to keep them from blocking a window view or encroaching on a walkway. It is time to pull them and replace them with lower growing species and cultivars, or perhaps rethink the area and include some colorful foliage.

It doesn't take long to come up with a long list of things to do in the coming weeks. Grab a cup of coffee, hot tea, or hot chocolate one cool fall morning and take an observant stroll through your garden and landscape. There is not a better season to choose and make the transitions that will result in easier maintenance, more beautiful plantings, and more productive gardens for years to come.

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