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Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn

A few golden trees at the edge of the field are tossing in the rainy wind today, but in general, most of the autumn color is gone from my garden. I was happy that the asters and dahlias stayed in bloom for so long. I’m happy with the rich red of my sourwood, of the sweetspire, the burgundy cotinus and the now-bare blueberries. It struck me that I have a pretty good fall garden.

However, upon spending a few hours with the gorgeous and colorful photographs by Rob Cardillo in Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn by Nancy J. Ondra and Stephanie Cohen (Storey, $22.95) I realize that there are any number of plants I could add to the new spaces in my garden that would not only make my fall garden a real star, but would be stellar additions to the garden in the summer season as well.

Fallscaping is seductively organized, beginning with the Key Players section reminding us that Beautiful Bloomers like asters, dahlias, heleniums, sedums, and veronicas as well as fall blooming bulbs are just the start. There is also Fabulous Foliage for Fall, and Showy Seed Heads and Bountiful Berries.

Over 80 pages are given to these Key Players, with clear and complete advice about deadheading, staking, choosing very late bloomers, dividing plants, identifying potential invasives, taking cuttings and saving seeds. I was also amused by the page that suggested taking a can of spray paint to decorate a select group of seed heads.

Section Two, the 50 odd pages of Perfect Partners for Fall, tackles the every thorny issue of what to plant with what. Some of us are good at figuring out ahead of time which two or three plants will bloom at the same time and look terrific together.

Some of us get lucky, from time to time and find an enchanting combination where we never planned it.

Some of us are glad there are gardeners like Ondra and Cohen who lay it out for us. The full page photograph of brilliant New England asters behind airy blue Russian sage and catmint with golden coreopsis and Fireworks goldenrod was really inspiring. Those plants aren’t hard to find or grow. I could do that!

Another combination I loved was a perennial sunflower with feather reed grass and fronted by scarlet flowered sage.

Again there are special pages devoted to topics like pinching and pruning, shopping the sales, planting bulbs in beds and borders, preparing pots for winter, putting the garden to bed and making the most of holding beds.

I was happy that Ondra and Cohen raised the issue of holding beds because more and more I feel that anyone who has the space to spare should consider maintaining a holding bed. When plants are divided we often have more plants than we can use in our own garden. With a holding bed we can keep those divisions for a fund raising plant sale, or for a friend who admires a plant. It is so easy and so pleasant to be generous and have plants to give away.

A holding bed is also a place to put plants you have bought on impulse without having chosen a place for them. Or those plants you have bought at a close out autumn sale. It’s also easy to be greedy when faced with a plant sale.

Section Three gives the gardener ten specific garden designs for different sites or desires from a sunny streetside border to a pastel fall garden and container gardens for sun or shade. Each design comes with information about each specific plant suggestion: size, cultural needs and hardiness, as well as alternatives. After all, a design may not be to everyone’s taste in every detail. Ondra and Cohen have been gardeners long enough to know that.

After 195 pages of seduction comes basic information about improving your soil, making compost or leaf mold, and starting a new garden or bed using my most recent favorite no dig technique of layering which first requires clearing and mowing, laying down a layer of cardboard or many thicknesses of newsprint, then a layer of topsoil and compost.

There is more advice about propagation, pruning, and lawn care. The index is complete and very helpful.

Some gardeners may already be familiar with Ondra and Cohen’s previous excellent book The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer. Nancy Ondra has two other books, Foliage and Grasses. I’m also a frequent visitor to her beautiful blog http://www.hayefieldhouse.com/. She is such a knowledgeable gardener and always has suggestions about plants that are unfamiliar to me, and for ways to use them with other plants.

2 comments to Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn

  • Frances

    Hi Pat, I have this book by Nan Ondra and also her Foliage. Both are excellent and I love the she is an approachable fellow blogger, leaving supportive comments just like the rest of us.

    Frances

  • Pat Leuchtman

    I’m coming up on my first anniversary as a blogger, and I have been so impressed by the the skills and knowledge of the other bloggers, but also by their support of others. I’ve still got a lot to learn, online, and in the garden. Your garden and blog are terrific texts. Thank you.

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