At A Glance: First Signs

last rose of summer

pumpkin “Long Island Cheese”

ornamental kale 

pumpkin in the gourd patch 

fall container planting


gourds and pumpkins

ornamental kale


fall container materials

carving pumpkins

broom corn

twig pumpkins


fall pots




September Favorites


I think its fall.  I am begrudingly letting myself notice the signs of the change of the season.  My transition from summer to fall is an bumpy one; who wants to let go?   I invest an inordinate amount of energy, hanging on.  I do not fault myself too seriously for this.  I just give this phase a wide berth.  Sooner or later I do let go, tune in, and celebrate what is happening now in the garden.

The ornamental grasses beautifully representing their seed heads and maturing foliage-breathtaking. I regularly plan panic grass; I love spectina pectinata in wet spots.  Micanthus gracillimus is one pretty perfect plant.  Impossibly thin blades contrast so beautifully with the mass that a good sized colony will make. Grasses need enough space so they can wave around in the breeze. Grass dancing is a very good look.    

Salvias shine in the fall.  Salvia artemis-noted for its giant felted leaves may not be so winter hardy, nor does it suffer any overwatering.  But it shines come September in a container.  I almost never have any luck with it in the ground.  Any of the big growing salvias come in to their own in September; Indigo Spires and Purple Majesty are just two of hundreds of cultivars.  Though it might be tough to warm up to a late flowering salvia in May-think ahead to your fall.

All of my mandevilleas are beautiful right now.  They take lots of time, and lots of heat to come on.  They have not been one bit fazed by own cold nights.  Their large single flowers are striking, and newer varieties have glossy and disease resistant foliage. This plant is the best it has been all summer; I am toying with taking it in for the winter.

Rob went to an antique show in Ann Arbor this past weekend; he came home with gourds.  Most of them are green and white. The white fingered gourds are called “White Crown of Thorns”.  The winged beauties-“Autumn Wings”.  Rampant cross pollination produces unique forms and colors.  They make great ornament on a garden table or bench.    

Rob tells me this long chubby orange and green variety is called “Lunch Lady”.  These warty fruits are a different kind of beautiful.  Every grower of gourds has a distinctly different crop.  No wonder there was a gourd festival in Imlay City this past weekend; the first annual Michigan festival of Gourds was sponsored by the Michigourders Gourd Guild.   

 Years ago a house manager of a client expressed surprise that I had brought hardy mums to plant.  He explained that given all the signs for hardy mums he had seen everywhere, he assumed it was a person running for office.  My telling of this event doesn’t begin to express how funny this was.  Chrysanthemums are a staple fall plant-you can find them everywhere.  I like them best as big green balls.  Mum balls.  They are so gorgeous at this stage.

Kalanchoe thyrisflora “Flapjack” has big paddle shaped leaves, and grows to 2′ tall.  It is monocarpic, meaning it dies after it flowers.  However they are willing in the offset production department.  I like them for fall pots; the edges of the leaves will turn burgundy red with some cold, and they are fine down to 25-30 degrees. I usually bring them in once the night temps approach the mid thirties. 

This little gourd is all the better for its stem. What garden table would not look all the better for a little gourd ornament ? 

I may grumble about the change of seasons, but the fact is our gardening year is a play in four acts.  We get a change of scene and costume.  We get a new twist on an old plot.