One of the great challenges of gardening is figuring out how make your garden shine in all four seasons. Although autumn brings bud-killing frosts and foliage-burning winds, it also brings fruit, incandescent foliage, and a certain willowy, translucent light. Mixing late blooming annuals and perennials with tall-growing grasses is one way to capture fragile autumn sun as it passes through the garden. Standing dark evergreens against the flowerbed’s rampant last survivors is another good trick, and a way to blend both the obstinate, cool shadowy nature of autumn with the raucous explosion of fruits, seeds, and final blooms it brings. Here is some inspiration from Great Dixter, in England, where the gardeners display definite deftness and total understanding of autumn’s beautiful and diverse pallet.
Images by Helen O’Donnell
It’s the spring rains. It’s the warm weather. It’s the long and pleasant indian summer. There are a myriad of explanations for the spectacle of leaf color change, but only one is correct.
The fact is leaves change at the same time each year regardless of the weather. Responding to the longer nights of fall, trees start to slow production of chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for making leaves green and photosynthesis possible, towards the end of August (in the Northern hemisphere). As chlorophyll vanishes from the plant’s tissues underlying pigments (the reds, yellows, oranges we all look out for) become visible. Things like hot, sunny days combined with chilly nights cause chlorophyll production to wind down rapidly, setting up a vivid, high impact foliage display. Other factors matter too: Drought during the growing season can stress trees out to the point of early leaf drop, and frost, wind and rain can knock leaves right off the trees before they have a chance to dazzle! So now you know. And next time somebody offers you their opinion on the subject, you be the authority.
A list of great autumn color picks based on region:
Northeast and midwest: black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta)
Southeast: smoke bush (Cotinus americana) and red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Southwest: Mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) and skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata)
Pacific northwest: hardhack (Spirea douglasii) and Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii)
Mountain states: New Mexican olive (Forestiera neomexicana) and waxflower (Jamesia americana)
Our favorites from across their year are below.
Katsumi Omori, Bonjour (Tokyo: Match and co, 2010)
Published 2012 by Pierre von Keist, bought at Hypermarkt during Arles
Published by Shogakukan 2009, bought at Kinokunya (3333¥)
At this time of year the vegetable garden seems to sense winter’s coming. The tomatoes are ripening in a literal storm, the squash is incessant and the beans keep going and going and going…. the garden is on the death march, doing it kamikazie style, putting everything its got into summer’s final days. So what to do with the excess? You could go the usual route and turn a blind eye (tell yourself the fallen fruit will feed the soil and admonish yourself later) or you could get in the spirit and start packing the pantry.
Canning has become so hip of late that classes for it are popping up everywhere. I love a good dilly bean as much as the next gal, but a winter’s worth of lacto-fermented goods? Thanks. But no thanks. My favorite dumping grounds for squash or zucchini is a lump of thick, hearty breakfast bread. There are a million variations and they all freeze well. And as for those impertinent tomatoes try this and then pack them down in tupperware. The flavor, come January, is just like July.
September and October are the months to divide spring and summer blooming perennials. Virtually all plants benefit from division every 3-5 years, and your garden will grow fuller more quickly as a result. Older plants that have never been divided will have hollow centers where no vegetation grows. If you have any of these in your garden, begin with them! Make sure to divide only on overcast (or at least not scorchingly hot) days and always water plants in well once division is complete.
- using a garden fork, lift up the entire clump to be divided
- look to see if there are any obvious locations of division i.e hostas and astilbes grow in clumps which are easily distinguished and separated
- for clumped, tangled root masses use two forks, a sharp spade, or even a saw to cut the root ball in half or thirds. Don’t worry about hurting the plant! Trimming the roots will create a growth spurt come spring.
-discard small, weak or rotten root masses
-dunk new plants in a pail or water and trim off any broken roots
-replant and water immediately
Check out this site for a list of perennials to divide in the fall, and some specimens the dividing fork should never touch!
The best part of camp is back. From September 21st to the 23rd, Camp Lakota in the Catskills is becoming a grown-ups playground full of classes, hikes and art installations. From pig roasts to learning to read the forest and movement seminars, it looks like The Last Weekend is going to be a very good time.
The folks behind the event were kind enough to include Wilder. Our favorite flower aficionado, Taylor Patterson, and Wilder’s Horticultural editor, Molly Marquand, will be teaching a workshop on how to make kokedamas - commonly known as string gardens.
Wanna join us? Get tickets here.
It’s the right time of year to keep your eye out for the ripened cones of wild hops. There are a couple kinds rambling in the hedgerows of this country: a good one and a bad one. Humulus japonica comes from eastern Asia and can be identified by the pointier bracts which surround its flowers. It’s also, regrettably, of no use at all in brewing beer. Humulus lupulus is the one you want.
The species’ rotund bunches of penduluous ‘cones’ (they’re not true cones, fyi) ripen towards the end of August/beginning of September and release a pungent aroma when ready. They also contain an agent crucial to killing bacteria during the beer brewing process. The first hops were cultivated in the 8th and 9th century in Bohemia, and Germany still reigns supreme as the number one hop-producing country. England’s garden county of Kent was once the hub of hop production, and garlands, wreaths, and pillows stuffed with aromatic hop flowers are still a common sight at harvest time.
Try your hand at making a wet beer (that’s when the hops are fresh, not dried) or braid yourself a bower of flowers. Versatile and beautiful, the species is incredibly easy to grow. Just make sure you plant it in an area you’re ready to relinquish!
Hot spring temps have produced an earlier than usual apple season this year- three weeks earlier, to be precise! Devastated by a string of late frosts in April, apple trees are also producing less, and the summer’s whopping drought has led to smaller fruit size. Thankfully, neither heat nor frost nor lack of water affects this ultimate autumnal fruit’s taste so whether you’re into gingergolds, lady crisps, black twigs or winesaps, get out there and get ‘em! And check this site out to find an orchard near you.
Image by Peter Watkins
I loved the Summer issue of Wilder Quarterly and seems like everyone else did as well. There are only 50 copies left. If you haven’t gotten your hands on one yet, now is the time.
Enjoy these last days of summer. I know I plan to!
The Horticultural Society of New York is a great place for art. They have a gallery that is open to the public and it’s upcoming show, The 15th Annual American Society of Botanical Artists, sounds spectacular:
… for 15 years this annual exhibition has showcased the most important artists in the genre alongside emerging artists. Chosen from a field of 192 submissions, the forty-three artworks… have been created by artists from the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, and the UK.
The show is September 14 – November 21, 2012. Opening Reception: Friday, September 14, 6–8:00pm.
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in that slim belt of land along the Gulf, or somewhere south of L.A, you might have noticed your outdoor potted plants beginning to show signs of the approaching autumn season. Nights are cooler, dew hangs on the grass longer in the mornings, and the days are rapidly getting shorter. Plants in turn are beginning to droop, their leaves turning blotchy or yellow, and they’re slowing production of blooms and new growth. Introducing plants gradually to their winter confines will help lessen their shock, and ultimately these steps will keep them healthier as they power through winter.
-Inspect all foliage and stems for pests, hand picking offenders or wiping off with rubbing alcohol
-Disinfect hand tools with bleach and cut away all damaged, dead, or diseased foliage
-Remove all rotting plant material from the surface of the soil
-Keep the plant in its original container, but make sure the container is clean by rinsing down with soapy water
-Move plants in at night, and out again on warm sunny days
-Select the sunniest windowsill possible for maximum photosynthesis
-Cut back on watering
-Stop all fertilization/feeding
It’s as easy as that!
Last week, Wilder had a fete to toast the end of Summer with all of our contributors at one of our favorite Brooklyn restaurants, Isa. Special thanks to all of the people who helped us pull off a magical cocktail hour especially Taylor Patterson of Fox Fodder Farms who created our amazing flower wall and Jon Santos who spun the tunes.
Also, let us acknowledge our dear Karlsson’s? The Swedish 100% potato vodka maker created a simple berry cocktail worth mentioning. Wanna make it yourself?
Combine to taste:
- Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
- Fresh lemon juice
- Vanilla bean simple syrup
- Fresh blueberries
We all hoped you enjoyed the Dog Days just as much as we did. As we close up the summer season, we look forward to the joys of Fall from the sweaters and brisk nights, to toad lilies and asters, turnips and kale, spiced beers and matching foliage.
“There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!” – Percy Bysshe Shelley
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