The heat. Oh my gosh, the heat. August makes us beg for relief. We dream of feeling one cool breeze to let us know fall is a reality, that there will be a moment without humidity wrapping its sticky, warm arms around us. Ah, yes, the salvation of falling fall temperatures.
But what about the garden that has been languishing in the heat with us? Its parched beds beg for our attention as we stand in the air conditioning knowing we need to get out there and do something.
But what to do first? How do we revive the color of the parched wasteland in front of us?
A quick disclaimer, I am a warrior, not a gardener, waging a constant battle with vines that have a stranglehold on my azaleas and camelias. They are a constant antagonist in my campaign to bring order to my yard.
That being said, there are people who are true gardeners. I turned to them for advice on what to do — and what not to do — in the fall to bring color to a garden, prepare for color in the spring and how and when to best prune trees and protect a lawn. It is a formidable task, but experts are here to help.
For constant color, Catherine Burrous, master gardener at Boone Hall Farms, suggested marigolds. Keep deadheading them, and they keep blooming. … Yellows, oranges, golds and even a buttery yellow. Snapdragons provide tall stalks of blues and pinks at the back of the bed, while bouquets of dianthus fill beds with pink, white and even green blooms.
Gardening Advice from Catherine Burrous:
“Choose plants that thrive in your USDA Hardiness Zone. Charleston area is in Zone 8-8.5. Lots of great choices!”
For bright hits of color, choose geraniums or begonias from shelves of nurseries in October and November. Crotons add lovely orangey-red colors and can turn into houseplants when the cold comes. An oft-overlooked option for fall is native grasses. Plant them in late summer, and they bloom in fall with waves of blush pink. Don’t know what to choose? Abide A While Garden Boutique looks like the Garden of Eden full of fall blooms and lush foliage. Ask one of the many friendly staff. They will explain options and fill your cart with great choices.
Need some green? Think kale, collards and mustard greens. A favorite green that blooms in the fall with yellow stalks of flowers is farfugium, or “tractor seat” plant.
The workhorses of any Lowcountry garden are azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas. The resounding “don’t” from all my experts was to not trim in the fall. This cuts the next spring’s blossoms.
Jim Martin, director of horticulture at Charleston Parks Conservancy, said to add gardenias to the “don’t trim list” in the fall. Ranunculus, anemones, plumbago and crinum lilies – a.k.a. swamp lilies — all lead his “do list.” A huge fan of antique roses, Martin suggests blush noisette and climbing larmarque to add romance and texture. He also suggested to put bulbs in the ground for spring-blooming tulips, daffodils and irises and to make sure to plant your containers to allow the plants to root well over the winter to produce lush plants in the spring.
Jim Martin’s Word to the Wise for Fall Gardening:
“Use our mild fall weather as the optimal planting opportunity, guaranteeing success in the seasons to come.”
No grass or garden to tend? Volunteer to be a Park Angel. Work alongside Jim Martin and his crew to plant and prune at one of the 150-plus Charleston County Parks. Sign up by visiting Charlestonparksconservancy.org.
Planting is one thing, but how do you annihilate pesky insects from your camellias and moths from your lawn? Call Bob Dolan at 843-884-2551 at Royall’s Ace Hardware. His No. 1 customer question is: “How do I prepare for Crab Grass?” The answer: Weedx by Scotts or HALT to prevent springtime weeds. To control bugs and molds, he will create an Integrated Pest Management weekly spray program for you. Want an organic solution to the bug issue? Fill your garden with ladybugs, aphids, spider mites and praying mantis — or spray with neem oil solution that removes the bugs and leaves no residue.
Bob Dolan’s Fall Tips:
“Plant broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages and collards; divide bulbs like daylilies, tulips, Easter lilies and irises; and fertilize with ‘systemic soil drench’ around base of azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas.”
Want foliage to cut from your garden? Naomi Wallace from Out of The Garden, a floral design and garden shop next door to Pitt Street Pharmacy in the Old Village, suggests fatsia, ivy and pittosporum for cutting at Christmas. Need help doing your planters? Wallace will come to your rescue. Reach her at 843-856-3581.
The dog days of summer will soon be a distant memory as you relax in your blooming garden with a glass of wine and chairs full of friends enjoying the cool, crisp breezes of fall. Happy gardening!
By Sarah R. Graham