I LOVE FALL

…at least when my college football team is winning.

No, just kidding – fall is my favorite gardening time of the year in spite of a few Gator losses.

A Saturday morning in the garden can be wonderfully chilly and brisk and breezy. You’re not dripping with sweat or scratching mosquito bites after a half hour’s digging. The weeds have slowed down and you can finally keep up with them, pulling escapees as you come across ’em. Spring is a time of drought, but fall usually brings regular rains as the first winter cold fronts roll through. Plants can develop roots all winter even though the tops are dormant or even totally brown.

I lived in South Florida until I was eighteen. There was no change of season, so our tropical landscapes looked pretty much the same year round. Now I live in northern Florida, and am amzed that the tree leaves change color with the first frost, ornamental grasses turn brown and make crackly noises as they blow and rub in the wind, fall-blooming perennials show off with bursts of oranges, yellows and reds.

My favorite fall-blooming perennials are Odontonema (Firespike), Russelia (Firecracker Plant), Tecoma Stans (Yellow Bells), Senna bicapsilaris (Cassia), Clerodendrum paniculatum (Pagoda Plant), and Asters like ‘English Countryside’. Cool season annuals like Violas and Snaps are popular, but more people should try Nemesia, Diascia, and Erysimum. They take the cold as well and make a bigger splash as they grow, spread, and bloom continuously.

So remember that the old slogan “Fall is for planting” is really quite true. You’ll feel wonderful just being outside exercising your muscles. In this less hectic time of year, the landscape dons its spectacular autumnal hues, flowers produce fireworks and then go to seed, and the cooler nights harden the plants and prepare them for a winter’s rest. 

Anyone for a cup of cocoa?

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