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Cottage Garden Companion

Inspiring Your Garden Growth Educational Articles For The Four-Season Gardener




Helen Hunt Jackson The goldenrod is yellow; The corn is turning brown; The trees in apple orchards With fruit are bending down. The gentian's bluest fringes Are curling in the sun; In dusky pods the milkweed Its hidden silk has spun. The sedges flaunt their harvest In every meadow-nook; And asters by the brookside Make asters in the brook. From dewy lanes at morning The grapes' sweet odors rise; At noon the roads all flutter With yellow butterflies. By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer's best of weather, And autumn's best of cheer.


Table of Contents





Autumn Activity In The Garden


Spring Bulbs – How To Have a Glorious Garden While You’re Still Inside


Garden Structure: Planning the Backbone of a Garden



Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower -but if I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is. Lord Alfred Tennyson


Introduction While the glory of the bloom in your beds may have faded for the time being, the autumnal chores awaken in us another phase of creativity in the garden – that of planning. We need to reassess what has happened in the past year and decide how we want to alter things for next spring and summer. Look at your trees and shrubs. Review where your photographs have recorded that bulbs came up. Do you need more? Now’s the time to plant ‘em. What plants had bug or disease problems? Now’s the time to remove all surrounding (but frost-nipped) leaves, duff, and detritus to a garbage pail and put it off-property with the trash. What garden plants do you love that you don’t have? See if you can slip some of them in now from the sale shelves of your nursery, or make a note to order some from the catalogues that will be mailed in the new year. (…or put them on your Christmas wish list!) We’re happy to share our E-book thoughts with you during this cozy time of re-lighting fires and starting up stews and roasts again. It’s all about Autumn now, but look for other seasonal E-books to come.


Autumn Activity In The Garden By Jane Johnson Many gardeners look forward to the exhilaration of gardening in the autumn. Around you, the garden is alight with chrysanthemums, cabbage and kale, and swaying grasses backlit with light that casts long shadows but a golden glow over everything. The feeling of adding to a garden in the fall is a feeling of more…more of what you’ve learned to love and rely upon for beauty around your home. Getting ready for the approaching cold can be handled with dispatch while crisp temperatures and blue skies are the norm.Your work during these precious days will leave your garden looking cared-for and ready for more fun in the spring. There are four steps that most gardeners take in the fall – all easy. They feed and water plants for winter readiness, they plant new additions for next year’s garden, they divide mature perennials, and they clean up and prepare beds for the onslaught of winter winds.

Feeding and Watering Plants are unable to take up water from frozen ground, so they need to store it during the days before the soil freezes. Plants also lose water - called transpiration, during the chilly months, so gardeners have to do all they can to help keep a build-up of moisture. People worry about promoting new plant growth in the fall by feeding, but, don’t be fooled. Even though you see signs of plants going dormant (typified by leaves falling off the plants), the roots are still active. The soil remains warm far longer than the air, and nutrients taken up now serve to both carry the plant through the cold and promote


sturdy growth next spring. An all-purpose plant food provides a terrific fall feeding that gives plants just what they need to carry them through the winter.

Planting Besides introducing bulbs to your garden plan, plant trees, shrubs, and flowers too. Nurseries often offer bargains at this time, because they don’t want to carry plants through the winter in high-maintenance pots. Plant them six weeks before frost, and they’ll have plenty of time to establish their own territory in the garden. Amid copper crabapple leaves, red maples and burning-bush, lilac-hued callicarpa berries and berries that are reddening on many species of shrubs, install shrubs that will burst into springtime bloom without missing a beat. Their roots will take hold and flourish with a little autumn care. Plant what you love to anticipate… forsythia that heralds in the spring in bright yellow garb, lilac for its distinctive smell, and rhododendron and azalea that will bring vivid color to even your darkest corners. Oh, there are so many wonderful choices! Many perennial seeds can be sown, for this is the time that this occurs naturally within the garden.You’ll often see small plants begin from them before winter. No worry…they’ll survive, if they’re hardy perennials. And speaking of hardy… the pansies that you see for sale in nurseries now will do just fine throughout the cold months. Roots will grow strong, and spring bloom will be astonishing.

Dividing Plants Many of this summer’s plants will have spread and outgrown their spaces by the time fall arrives. This is the best part of gardening! Divide your bounty. Increase your beds.


Share with friends.You can also pot up many kinds of plants to brighten windowsills or take cuttings to start new, small offspring. Walk through your garden with a bucket and a trowel. Anywhere a plant has outgrown its space and put out spectacular growth, chances are that you can split it into sections. Dig around it, place it in the bucket, divide it into several pieces that have active root-growth, and re-install it in several spots in the garden.

Friendship Garden “Divide your bounty. Increase your beds. Share with friends.”

Clean-up We’re programmed to think that cleaning-up is not the fun part, when – in fact – clean-up in the fall garden is one of the most artistic and creative parts of gardening. Here you are in a garden that has been tumbling all over itself to grow…bloom…burst with luscious color and grandeur, and now you’re going to sculpt what it is of the garden that you want to remain and look at through the winter months. If you like seeing empty beds, cut everything back to within an inch or so of the growth-crown. (An exception is lavender, which grows best without benefit of a shearing. Other herbs may prefer to only be cut back partially.) If you want to see birds continue to visit, leave some of the seedheads and sturdy stalks of perennials for them to perch upon and enjoy.


Grasses can be left to sway and reflect light. But if you choose to leave the growth because the look of it pleases you, be sure to cut it back in the spring before new growth gets too big. And when the ground is frozen, mulch. Mulching helps to keep an even temperature around your plants. If done prior to freezing, little critters might burrow next to your plants and munch on them all winter long. Fall in the garden is a time of wonder.You will be amazed at the wonderful growth of the past season, and you’ll wonder what is to come next season. Crisp fall temperatures make gardening a pleasure. Every season provides different kinds of fun, for you grow in skill, knowledge, and enthusiasm as your plants cycle through the year. Enjoy them all.


Spring Bulbs – How To Have a Glorious Garden While You’re Still Inside By Jane Johnson

Spring-blooming bulbs (daffodils and the like) celebrate the spirit of growth, the faith in beauty, and the belief in renewal that all gardeners cherish in their hearts. Just imagine it! Those odd-looking, brown-papery, oniony-like things that you plant in the fall are going to grow into delicate, colorful, gorgeous blooms in your spring garden! In spring, when bulbs’ first tender, green growth pushs up after winter’s season of rest and renewal, the cycle of growth begins all over again. The vivid purple of crocus, the delicate whites of snowdrops and daffodils and the deep yellow of daffodils soon give way to a proud, strong rainbow of colors delivered by the tulips and hyacinths. Bulbs provide an instant, full-blown, colorful symphony that appears as if by magic. The magic, however, begins in the fall. Find spaces in between your perennials and fill them with bulbs. It’s fun to plant lots of different kinds…crocus, snowdrops, daffodils, grape hyacinths, tulips, hyacinths. Choose early-bloomers, middle-bloomers, and late-bloomers within each family of flowers for a changing palette of color in your garden all springtime long… all without lifting a spring finger or digging in still-chilly soil! Plant combinations both of flowers and of colors that make your heart sing. The contrast of delicate blossoms peeping out from under bigger blooms makes an especially effective presentation, such as early white anemone planted with early-flowering red tulips. Or the same tones of a soft peach-colored daffodil that flowers at the same time that your apricot-toned hyacinth unfurls may be just the thing to light up a corner of the garden. And look for some of the recently-introduced varieties of daffodils and tulips.


There are single bulbs that produce multiple blooms. Plant one and pick five….like having an instant bouquet! You want to plant in groups anyhow, for that’s the way bulbs grow in their natural state. Some people choose to plant in groups of three, or five, or seven. Other people open a bag of bulbs, toss them on the ground, and plant them where they land. Some plant individual bulbs in individual holes, and some clear a single large space and plant a bunch of bulbs at a time. Any method works, and there is no one right way. Oftentimes, gardeners wonder if they are planting the bulbs correctly…at the right depth, facing the right direction, at the right time. Don’t worry. It’s easy. Most all bulbs come with directions for planting, but the rule of thumb is easy to remember: plant at a depth that is roughly two and a half times the size of the bulb. Planting need not be exact. If you get them anywhere near where they’re supposed to be, bulbs will nestle down to the depth that makes them happy and set about the business of showing you their “stuff ” …their vibrant, bouncy, colorful growth just when you’re most ready to be reminded of the promise your garden holds. As to direction, pointy ends go up, and …if you can’t tell which end is up, plant the bulb on its side, and it will do the rest! As to timing, you have a lot of leeway, because the ground in fall remains warm far longer than the air does. Most area suppliers won’t put bulbs out for sale until it’s time to plant, so that can be your clue.


If you want bulbs to return year after year, feed them. The bulb that you place in the ground in autumn contains a fully-developed plant within it…needing nothing but soil for cover and water to drink. But as soon as that bulb puts out roots in your garden, it is working on next year’s growth, and you’ll want to work with it to ensure bloom in other years. Start with a good send-off of bulb food at the time of fall planting. Scratch it into the soil under the bulb at the time that you plant, putting a layer of soil between the food and the bulb. This will encourage a great foundation of roots to reach deep and feed well. But there should be three subsequent feedings that take place in the spring. Use water soluble plant food after the chill has gone out of the air. Feed first with a watering can on the leaves as well as the soil, when leaves have completely pushed up but before the bulb has bloomed. The second feeding comes after flowering. And the third feeding is most effective two weeks after flowering. These will aid in the manufacture of food reserves for the next year. After bloom, allow all foliage to remain until it turns yellow, and then cut it down. By the time you’ve experienced the heady success of a spring bulb display, you’ll want to explore what else can be done with bulbs. The summer bulbs – such as alliums, lilies, dahlias, and gladiolas – will carry you further along the gardening learning curve with little effort and lush growth. All seasons have bulbs to help the garden, although they may be called corms, or tubers, or rhizomes. From spring crocus to autumn crocus, you’re sure to be enchanted. Planting bulbs is like putting a message in a bottle…people will get the message later, and there’s no telling how many hearts you will touch with your efforts. But touch them you will, and beauty will live on because of your caring...and bulbs.


Garden Structure: Planning the Backbone of a Garden By Jane Johnson

Close your eyes, and picture how your garden looks during the height of the growing season. Now, picture it during the quiet of winter. Between the most verdant times and the most dormant time, what are the “constants” in your garden? What is apparent to your eye during all that time? That, and that alone, is the backbone, main support, or underlying structure in your garden. For many ornamental gardeners, establishing a garden’s backbone is an evolutionary process during the quest for pleasing garden design. Once you like the garden during one season, you want to love it during all seasons.You’ll want to “see something” all the time. Call in the evergreens and the shrubs with interesting line or color or form! These will bridge the climates and times of the year with enduring charm. Evergreens, especially, can create a structural harmony for your special gardening masterwork, but grasses and woody ornamentals (shrubs) lend backbone too. As you design your garden, include evergreens in your plan from the beginning. Pretend that they’re just like all the other perennials, and then you’ll be delighted when they don’t die back in winter. Properly planted, lovingly watered, and well-fertilized with an acid-loving plant food, your evergreens will grow into wonderful


specimens. These are acid loving plants, and an acidic plant food is specially formulated to make them thrive in your beds. It won’t be long before your annuals and perennials will be frolicking at the feet of strong, deep-green azaleas, rhododendron, conifers, and camellias. The changing flowers and the constant evergreens are a wonderful compliment for each other. And what of the shrubs? …like camellias, gardenias, dogwoods, hollies and hydrangeas. There’s a real beauty to them even if some of them lose their leaves in winter. Some have red or yellow stems, some have berries, and some lend interesting shape to your winter garden because of their gnarly growth habits or early bloom. They, like the evergreens, just need to be allowed to grow to their full potential with very little effort on your part. Hopefully, your garden has the capacity to make you smile all year ‘round. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see something wonderful growing all the time. That backbone you’ve built in will also remind the world that, “Here-in lives a person who is eager to grow.”


Look For Our Winter, Spring, & Summer E-books Full of Helpful Information and Inspiration! Available In The Coming Months!


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Cottage Garden Companion 427 Reeser Road ď‚&#x; Camp Hill, PA 17011 Phone: (717) 612-9989 Email: Š Cottage Garden Companion. 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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E-book of Autumn Gardening Tips

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