by Charlene Burgi
Do you ever get the itch to do something? There seems to be something in the air lately besides political unrest. This past week has found me answering more questions about flowers, shrubs, trees and irrigation than collectively all summer. Is it the angst of knowing winter is coming soon and finding our garden hours soon to be as dormant as our leafless trees? Or is it wishing for more time basking in the warm days in the garden—that inner need to prolong our beautiful garden color just a while longer?
Whatever the reason for the barrage of questions (which I love), it has led me to sharpen my awareness of plants with prolonged blooming seasons and seek new varieties that thrive or provide interest in winter months. Questions found me investigating the performance of plants like lychee fruit living on the fringe in Marin, suggesting temporary landscaping to enhance a future undeveloped herb/medicinal garden, attempting to identify a few outrageously beautiful red leaves taken from a shopping center parking planter, and convincing neighbor ranchers in Lassen that pansies will survive the cold winter months and still bloom. Even a trip for a routine physical prompted questions from the doctor about her errant irrigation system that kept popping emitters.
Nurseries are only adding to the itch as they display their fabulous assortments of spring bulbs, or tempt us with perennial plants and shrubs at great sale prices. It is so difficult to resist grabbing another 50 daffodils while shopping for garlic and onions that need to be planted soon. It is the aforementioned itch that gets to me—just knowing how spectacular those pretty yellow and white blooms will look around the base of the new birdbath come spring.
Fall is the time when I assess what I would change for spring. As I walked out on the back deck, I noted that the Gaillardia, otherwise known as blanket flower, was in full bloom. The flowers are huge, lovely shades of oranges, golds, deep reds and hints of yellow—all the colors reminding me that autumn is here. These flowers, for me, are even better than mums for autumn accents. They are like Gazania on steroids! I made a mental note to plant these daisy-like flowers near pumpkins next year to really capture the moment! Even though I know these are long-bloomers from summer through fall, they failed to capture my attention until recently. How did I manage to miss their show? I know I want more of their presence next year, but with winter coming on this is an itch I must resist (for now).
Are you also experiencing that itch to garden? It really is a great time to get most plants into the ground before winter sets in and allow the roots to establish before spring growth. If planted in well-drained, amended soil and positioned in the correct exposure, your plants will not only thrive but outshine any plant put in during the spring.
Got the itch? Head down to the local nursery to see what is available to add that special little something in the garden. Review stored seeds and plant those seeds that may provide winter vegetables, plant a cover crop, spread mulch for winter protection. Those are simple ways to scratch those itches!