Summer is drawing to an end, and there is a definite hint of fall in the air. As the autumnal equinox approaches, it is time to join in with Beth of Plant Postings for her seasonal reflections of lessons learned in the garden. I still consider myself an adolescent in gardening years, but I've learned that even much more experienced gardeners find that there is always something new to learn every year.
Here is a round-up of just a few of the important lessons I've learned this past summer:
1. I need to learn to identify seedlings. I think I've used this idea before, and I am getting better at identifying many seedlings, but I still have a long way to go. My friend Beckie and I are notorious for swapping misidentified plants. The funniest example, and one I've often mentioned before, is the time I gave her some seedlings I had started indoors, telling her they were yellow coneflowers. As the seedlings grew and the leaves developed more, I quickly realized my mistake--they were kohlrabis, not yellow coneflowers!
This spring I dug out some of the masses of coneflowers in my garden and shared them with her. One day while visiting her garden, Beckie pointed them out and asked if it was normal for them to have what appeared to be the beginnings of yellow blooms. Sure enough, they weren't coneflowers at all, but some of the volunteer Rudbeckia triloba that have popped up throughout my garden.
|These Rudbeckia leaves look very similar to those of purple coneflowers, but the stems have a reddish cast.|
At the same time, I also gave her some volunteer Amsonia, or what I thought were Amsonia. I left a few in the bed where I pulled these, and I noticed this week that they have buds on top. Amsonia doesn't bloom in the fall--I'm now pretty sure these are goldenrod, or maybe even a weed. Shh, don't tell Beckie or she may never accept a free plant from me again:)
|Zinnias are so easy to start from seed.|
2. Creating a garden doesn't have to be expensive. I am a self-confessed plant-aholic who was once accused by my daughter of spending her inheritance on plants, yet it really doesn't take a lot of money to turn a patch of dirt into something beautiful. Seeds are inexpensive (or even free, if you collect them yourself), and some of my favorite annuals like cosmos and zinnias are so easy to direct sow into the soil.
|Cosmos from seed bloom all summer.|
Then there are the many plants that will multiply year after year, either through re-seeding or through divisions. For example, as long as you don't get addicted to collecting daylilies as I have, a few plants will easily double or triple in just a few years by dividing them.
|Many of these 'Victoria Blue' and all of the 'Victoria White' salvias re-seeded from last year.|
Best of all, gardening friends are more than willing to share the bounty of their garden. This year, other than the usual annuals I purchased in the spring, I have probably spent less on plants than any other year since I started gardening. Part of that is due to running out of empty space to plant them in (without some strenuous digging, that is), but much of it is also due to the many free plants I've received from gardening friends.
|'Immortality' Iris, a free division, was planted just last fall and is now full of its second flush of blooms.|
|Turtleheads were thinned out at the Nursing Home Garden, and some extras found a new home here.|
Working at the nursing home garden, I've often brought home divisions of plants after we've thinned them out. Many of the volunteers also bring in divisions from their own gardens as well. One of the best freebies I've gotten this year are two bare-root peonies. We'll see if they survive here, but I'm certainly excited about the prospect of adding more peonies to my garden. And just last week, I was so happy to meet our hostess Beth at a Botanic Garden in southern Wisconsin--more on that in a post one of these days. Beth, such a sweetie, remembered that I had commented on one of her posts how much I loved her purple and white irises, and she brought some divisions along for me! They are now planted in my garden, and I'll think of her whenever they bloom.
As long as you can be patient, you can easily create a garden without ever whipping out a credit card.
And finally, I'm also going to tie in with Donna's Seasonal Celebrations for a lesson I remind myself to learn over and over every season.
3. Enjoy every moment. It has been a beautiful summer--there have been very few days that I complained about the heat, and plentiful rainfall kept the garden looking lush and green. I almost hate to see this season end, but I am enjoying the last vestiges of summer just as I am enjoying the changes I see around me.
|'Vanilla Strawberry' Hydrangea|
Hydrangeas are one of my favorites in the summertime, but they also age beautifully.
Volunteer Goldenrod is a favorite of bees and other insects every fall.
The Purple Coneflowers are way past their prime, but I enjoy watching the goldfinches feast on the seedheads this time of year.
The garden is swarming with more butterflies than I've seen all season.
The first Painted Ladies didn't appear until a few weeks ago; they are loving the late-blooming zinnias and salvias.
Monarch sightings have been few this year, so I was happy to see this visitor on the lantana yesterday. According to local experts, this is their week to migrate through our area, so I might not see them again until next year.
One of my favorite activities this summer has been watching the hummingbirds. This little lady has found a shepherd's hook the perfect perch for watching me as well. Their days in my garden are numbered, I know, so I'm going to enjoy their antics every moment I can until they head for their winter homes.
I have a long to-do list for fall, planting more bulbs and making some changes to the garden. But as the seasons change, I am going to remember especially this last lesson and take some time each day to enjoy the beauty around me. It's nourishment for the soul.
To see what others have learned this past season or to get ready for the coming fall, visit Beth at Plant Postings and Donna at Garden's Eye View.