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Monday, September 21, 2009

Gail's Gardens: Fall Favorites

Fall Favorites

This is the time of year when our summer flowers are beginning to fade and a new set of fall-bloomers is needed to give a “punch” of color and interest to the garden. I’d like to share a few of my favorite fall bloomers with you today.

Last year I planted three evergreen miscanthus (Miscanthus transmorrisonensis) on a sunny hillside with Jerusalem sage, lavender, and ceanothus. They are already 3 feet across with the flowering spikes up to 5 feet tall: so graceful in the breeze. I enjoy watching them every morning and evening from my kitchen window. Hardy to –10 degrees, and drought tolerant once established, these beauties are evergreen. If you plant this variety, be sure to give it room to grow: I have seen one plant grow 6 feet across!

Another new grass which I added to my garden last year is Giant Feather Grass (Stipa gigantea): planted on a low berm with Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’ and Correa ‘Dusky Bells’, it provides a airy screening effect without blocking the view toward the mountains. Its basal clump is evergreen and only knee-high, but its longlasting golden seed stalks are 6’ tall and are still gorgeous after a full summer’s show. I expect they will continue looking good until the rains come.

Our California native Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) is in its full glory in fall with bright green leaves and brilliant red flowers: I love to use it as a filler in flower bouquets. I found mine on the roadside and have grown many plants from that original cutting. It is absolutely tough, adaptable to wet or dry ground and sand or clay soil. Be sure to cut this salvia back hard in the late winter/early spring to keep it full and avoid that ‘leggy’ look.

Don’t let your roses fade just because it’s autumn: join me for a free class at Bassignani’s Nursery on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 10:30 am to learn how to keep them blooming happily until winter.

Asters are an old standard for the cottage garden and I have had great success with the variety ‘Monch’ (Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’). This herbaceous perennial (dies back to the roots in winter) loves a position on the edge of my lawn where it gets a fair amount of water, and spreads slowly to form a mass of shiny green foliage in the spring, followed by a long-lasting fall display of small blue daisy-like flowers. It is easy to spread around the garden by digging some of the fleshy roots in the spring, so I now have it happily growing in three different areas where it mingles with Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria), iris, and roses. ‘Monch’ is very resistant to powdery mildew, which is a problem for many other asters.

As the weather cools down and the rains come, we move into the best planting time in Sonoma County: if you need advice on designing your garden for easy care and maximum beauty, give me a call now at 829-2455 for a garden consultation or a complete design. Prices are very reasonable!

I have inherited a new green house and am hoping to grow all kinds of good salad greens and veggies this fall season: I hope you are planning for your fall garden too. Looking forward to next year’s spring garden? This is the season to plant your Sweet Peas: Claudia Owens will share all the tricks of the English gardeners for outstanding sweet peas at 10:30 am on Saturday Oct. 10th at Bassignani’s Nursery in Sebastopol.

Gail Fanning
Blue Hill Garden Design

Gail's Gardening Demonstrations
presented by
Bassignani’s Nursery and Blue Hill Design
1841 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol
Info: 823-3984

Saturdays at 10:30am. Free!

October 3 : Fruit Tree Dormant Season Care
Fall is the time to begin spraying your fruit trees for a bountiful and pest-free harvest next summer! Join Tony Bassignani to learn the best methods and techniques for spraying and pruning all your fruit trees.

October 10: Sweet Peas
Join our English gardener, Claudia Owens, to learn how to start your sweet peas seeds now! Enjoy a wonderful early spring bloom with over-wintered plants.

October 24: Grow Your Own!
Learn how to grow more of all your favorite plants by rooting softwood cuttings. Roses, geraniums, sages, and more: Designer Gail Fanning will show you how to grow new plants that will be ready for spring planting.

November 21: Planting Bulbs for Spring Bloom
Designer Gail Fanning will teach you how to plant bulbs now for a beautiful spring garden! We will also learn how to force bulbs indoors for winter color. Bulbs available for purchase.

Dec. 12: Living Christmas Trees & Holiday Color from the Garden
Join us to make swags and wreathes and centerpieces with garden color for the winter season. Learn how to care for your living tree and plant it out successfully next spring.

Enter to win a free plant at each demonstration! (Must be present to win)
Info: or 707-823-3984

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