Rosemary adds a dramatic aspect to the garden.
Fall is for harvesting, canning
Read More In The Garden
It’s also a fine time to be thinking about harvesting or buying local produce and “putting by” for holidays and winter eating.
If anything remarked upon me this summer enjoying other people’s gardens (which was all I did this summer since mine was on hiatus), it was the growing use of grasses and sedums in combination with more traditional perennials and annuals. Tall showy grasses with their graceful plumes dancing in the breeze are so visually compelling, catching the eye like a fountain with their movement and drawing it down to the lower-level plants surrounding them at their base.
A couple of great combinations include the big Oriental Fountain Grass, Pennisetum Orientale, surrounded by three to four dark burgundy-bronze, ruffled-leaved heucheras or perennial geraniums like the cultivar “Johnson’s Blue.”
A visual drive-by example of how grasses can work in the garden can be seen on the two large berms planted by the Point Roberts Garden Club on the south corners of Tyee and Benson.
Sedums, also known as Stonecrop, and the most common, “Hens and Chicks,” have made the leap out of small pots set on patio tables into wider garden use. These succulents seem to be the new must-have perennial plants for those trying to reduce their water use as well as create all-year round visual interest.
Now available in a huge range of color and size, from ground-hugging spreaders with cool-looking little leaf shapes, like the purple-green daisy-shaped leaves of Sedum Spathulifolium, to knee-high plants with more traditional upright leaf and flower structure like the easy-to-find, pink-flowering Sedum “Autumn Joy.”
Sedums’ water-wise advantage is that they take up water in the wet of winter and spring and then release the stored water back to their roots when the soil dries out. Seeing a variety of low-growing sedums planted at the front edges of borders or alongside garden paths and walkways was another great visual delight to be had this summer on the Garden Clubs’ members and guests tours.
If you find yourself looking around your garden beds this month, noticing a few bare patches and wondering what to plant there until a shrub or perennial fills in, consider planting bulbs that will come up in early to late spring, February through late April.
Best had by mail-order on the Point, bulbs bring a huge amount of gardening satisfaction in that you do a little planting now and then get the reward of all that color and bloom in the spring when the rest of the garden is still relatively dormant.
A wide range of bulbs is available, from tiny inch-high crocus, to tulips, to spectacular giant four-foot high globe alliums. If you’re new to gardening with bulbs though, consider starting with just a couple of types planted in well marked clusters.
My all-time easy favorite for naturalizing – theoretically meaning you need only plant them once in a spot and they’ll keep coming back every spring – is the bigheaded King Alfred daffodil. I plant these large bulbs October through November in a hole that’s a good six to eight inches deep in groups of at least 10 spaced about two inches apart so they will come up in bright yellow bouquet-like clusters.
Plan to have some bulb fertilizer and good rich soil on hand to put in with any bulbs you plant, and you’ll have better blooms in successive years. A good quality mail-order source for all kinds of bulbs is John Scheepers. Their online catalog can be seen at www.johnscheepers.com.
Putting by some of fall’s harvest for the winter months, perhaps with a friend or two, can be a satisfying pursuit this month. Local apples, which abound on the Point, can often be had free for the asking and while not always eating perfection, they can be canned up in all manners for pantry storage.
Try an apple-ginger jelly with fresh grated and crystallized ginger mixed into your homemade apple juice. There are also some good recipes available online for canning apple pie or tart fillings. A website I’m liking is PickYourOwn.org, which offers both recipes and how-to canning tips along with U-pick farm sources.
October is also the month for pears, so if you’re partial to their taste, it’s worth going on the hunt for a local tree source to harvest from. One of my must-have holiday edibles is a vanilla-pear butter that I slow cook and can up when pears are at their peak. It’s a golden-brown reduction of pears, whole vanilla beans, lemon juice and a touch of sugar that makes the perfect hostess holiday gift and a great addition to a winter cheese tray.
As always with canning, use a recipe specifically designed for the safe preparation and storage of your fruit and vegetables and follow directions to the letter. For low-sugar jam and jelly recipe canning, I get great results using the Pomona brand of pectin, available at specialty food stores and online at www.pomonapectin.com.