Pansies and Kale
The old stand bys - pansies and kale (cabbages) - are readily available. Pansies are amazingly hardy and bloom through all but the coldest of the winter.
Apply some slow release fertilizer and keep them deadheaded for continued bloom. Pansies planted in the fall provide early spring color. If you can find it, "Tuscan" kale makes a nice addition to the fall/ winter garden. It is a gray/green textured leaf upright plant which lends color and structural interest in the border.
Flowering cabbages and kale deepen their colors with colder weather; unfortunately they tend to rot with ice and snow and extreme cold. Cabbages that survive the winter actually bloom in the spring, and their airy yellow flowers are a good compliment to spring bulbs.
Tuscan Kale gives a real boost to the fall garden!
I always put in the spring bulbs when planting fall materials. This makes the job much easier. There are so many spring bulb varieties that it makes the mind whirl, especially since most of us don't have the space for all the colors and varieties we would like to plant. Mid season daffodils and late flowering tulips are good choices since they are not subject to the ups and downs of the spring season and bloom when the weather is more settled.
Many Fairlington residents complain about the squirrels eating their bulbs - especially tulips.
Some ways to keep tulips safe from these critters are (1) planting them with daffodils (all parts of which are poison), (2) spraying the bulbs lightly with rodent repellant when planting, or (3) sprinkling dried blood in the hole and on the surface. If you plant the bulbs six to eight inches in depth, usually the squirrels can't get them!
Top off the bulbs with some slow release fertilizer and install some pansies - you will be amazed at the spring show this will produce.
Remember tulips can be planted as long as the soil is not frozen.
Sometimes you can find some real bargains on tulip bulbs, just before the appearance of Christmas items. If you have some "holes", but some and plop them in!
Planting bulbs in large containers also gives portable color in the spring. The container needs to be large enough (24 inches deep) to prevent freezing.
Layering bulbs - tulips on the bottom, small daffodils next, and crocus on top - gives flowering over a longer period of time than just planting one kind of bulb. To prevent the container from getting too cold, place them against the brick of your residence.
When you see them sprout in the spring, move into direct sun. Usually container bulbs bloom earlier than those planted directly in the ground.
Clean up your border. After the glory of summer and fall, a clean, well mulched border provides a visual break from the abundance of summer. Cut down perennials; remove annuals; trim any dead or overgrown shrubs, and apply a light mulch to carry you through the winter.
Tidiness and cleanliness in the border are essential at this time. Raking the mulch and freshening it a bit with some new provides a well kempt look.
Remember not to prune spring and summer flowering shrubs now - particularly hydrangeas and azaleas. Doing so removes the buds which are already set for next year.
The "Bones" of your Border
Take a look at the "bones" of your border - the evergreens and deciduous shrubs - that give structure to the landscape scheme. Many materials - whether evergreen or deciduous - give winter interest with foliage, berries, stem formation, or colorful bark.
Fairlington has many crape myrtles - take a look at the bark and twig arrangement in December. You will be amazed at the visual impact these shrubs and small trees make. They are truly a plant with four season interest.
Many grasses, if you don't object to their informal look, add winter interest up to late January and early February when they tend to become "winter weary" (as do we all). But that is the time to shear them off before new growth begins, so they, too, give us a multi-season interest.
The larger grasses are inappropriate for our spaces, but there are some smaller growing varieties which add grace and movement to the winter landscape.
Check the labels for plant size and growing conditions and you will probably find some you can grow.
Don't forget that even though landscape materials are going into dormancy, they still need water until the ground freezes. Roots are still actively growing. Soak materials when there is insufficient rainfall.
And don't forget to buy some of those plant bargains and create some container plantings for the patio. Small boxwoods and dwarf conifers mixed with some pansies and smaller grasses in larger containers look great on the patio. Just don't forget to keep them watered. One overlooked plant that does well in containers is "sweet box" (not boxwood). It is an evergreen that has small blooms in the early spring which smell heavenly.
"Coral Bells", in their unlimited variety of leaf colors, also look great (and do well) in containers. They may look a little ragged in the depths of winter, but are usually attractive especially in the protective patio areas.
This is a great season for gardening, so get out there and "make pretty" for fall and winter.
The American Horticultural Society (AHS) is one of the oldest national gardening organizations in the country. Since 1922, we have provided America's gardeners with the highest quality gardening and horticultural education possible.
We accomplish this with the help of an impressive network of experts -- from the members of our Board of Directors, specialized Advisory Committees, National Great American Gardener Award Winners and corporate sponsors.
At AHS you’ll get connected -- to great gardens around the world, gardening education for all levels of skill, sources of information on any garden subject imaginable, a community of gardeners eager to share their experiences, other great gardening events and activities, and much, much more.
In the interest of protecting our environment, there are many thing the small-time gardener can do to limit our impact on the planet.
|Plant native species. The American Horticulture Society (located near Mt. Vernon), Blandy Farm (the VA arboretum near Winchester, VA), Green Springs Farm (located off Little River Turnpike), and local farmers' markets offer native species which will grow in our area. |
Use natural products. Limit the use of chemical sprays and fertilizers in the garden.
Consider drought tolerant plants. Once established many plants, including native species, are drought tolerant. Discover them through a little garden research.
Promote Natural Growth Patterns. Encourage the natural growth form of plants and shrubs. Sheared plants are stressed out and use more water than those left to grow in their natural pattern.