I wrapped up my garden clean-up last weekend and would like to share my Fall yard with you. I am still fairly new to gardening – only planted my first garden in 2018. But I read a lot about ways of gardening before I started. It is fair to say that I acquired my gardening skills through authority instead of empiricism.
My first garden bed in 2018:
Vegetable beds , 1st year:
Over the last three seasons, I gained a lot more experience and my intuition started to grow. I can finally tell whether a plant is happy, what it might need, and I have accepted that each plant has its own personality (e.g. the way they like to grow). It is important, for me at least as a gardener, to stop forcing a plant to grow into something I think it should be like, but letting it grow to what it wants to be.
Below is my 1st flower bed in this Spring. Some annual flowers have gone and now it is a herb garden:
The vegetable patch this summer:
A fuller garden also means more lives. Pollinators, insects, and resident bunnies!
Bunny No. 1
Bunny No. 2
As my knowledge accumulated, my confidence also grew. This season, I started moving plants around – relocating unhappy plants, switching plants within the same flower bed based on their growing habit and desired view. Fine toning the garden beds, or what I call “fluffing” the garden made me felt like a real gardener for the first time.
Moving perennials out of the herb garden
My garden “fluffing” started in the pollinator/herb garden. We used to have an old tree stump here, which was hard to remove. I asked Slav to cut the stump flush with the ground, then planted this garden on top of it. Everything here are native, drought-tolerate plants that are pollinator magnets:
The saying about perennials “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, then the third year they leap” could not be more true. By the end of 2020, the whole bed was already too full:
A full garden offers many benefits – less weeds, more insects, and almost no need for watering. However, taller plants also shade the ground around them, and I found the English lavenders and lavender cottons started to struggle. Last Fall, I transplanted the trio of English lavender to the patio garden. And this Fall, it is time to save the lavender cottons.
I dug out all three of them, and transplanted them into the front yard. This spot used to have three larkspur, which are very pretty plants, supposedly. But they did not like this location and I did not like their look. So out they went. The front yard offers better sunlight and drainage. I am sure that the lavender cottons will create a really cute low mound of flowers here in spring. Their silver color and yellow little flowers should look nice next to the green dwarf pine and blue grasses.
Speaking of blue grasses, I also relocated one Blue Grama grass. Blue Grama grass is Colorado’s state grass and I am proud to have three of them. They were planted in a line initially, along the edge of the lawn, but the one on the very right has been competing with other plants for water and is visibly smaller. So I moved it for just a few feet, replanted it in front of other two grasses.
Dividing plants in the herb garden
The second plant I took care of in the herb garden was the Red Hot Poker. The variety I have is called “flamenco“, which flowers in three colors (yellow, orange and red) in a gradient. The flowers look like candy cones and very cool. This grass was used a lot in the median strip on our local streets, which speaks for their toughness.
You can see it in the middle of the picture above – this was when they first emerged in May. By mid-summer, the grass became a beast.
Can you see it behind the catmint “walker’s low”? Being its fourth Spring, it stopped flowering, and started to flop from the center. I cut it back, divided it into many parts, and planted a trio in its original location:
Another clump went under the transparent apple tree:
I also planted a big clump behind the ginkgo tree. Ginkgo is famous for its slow-growing habit, so I do not think my ginkgo stick will reach to an appreciable height anytime soon. At the mean time, I want something taller as a backdrop:
After moving the plants out, I cut back some low-mounding herbs that have spilled out of the flower bed:
Now we can see the edging and path again! I know that this bed still looks very wild. But I intend to keep it this way for winter. Dead crowns not only protect the roots over the winter, but also provide nesting place for insects/eggs and small mammals. We will cut all the dead and broken back next May, after the danger of hard frost passes.
Cutting back irises
One plant I do cut back every Fall is iris. Their leaves are too unsightly to look at during winter, and having snow sit on the leaves often cause rot. I have most of my iris in the front yard along the dry creek. Cutting the leaves back revealed the shape of dry creek again:
I planted hens-and-chicks and sedum along the dry creek. After cutting back the tall iris leaves, they finally got some winter sun:
Season of Fall colors
This year we had the best Fall colors in our yard, probably due to the mild October we had. There has not been any snow, not even strong wind. So all the trees and perennials have had the opportunity to reach their fullest Fall color. It is truly a magnificent view:
Front yard flower bed:
“Shenandoah” switch grass
Sedum “Autumn joy”
Mock orange “Snow White Sensation”
“Berry Poppins” winterberry
The honey suckle (second year)
And here is how my backyard looks now:
Ash trees above the garden shed:
Peony (all 11 of them!)
Russian sage plants are still flowering:
Chinese Snowball Viburnum (second year):
The ginkgo tree (second year):
The asparagus patch:
And last but not the least, our beloved crabapple tree:
Don’t you just love the colors? We are so fortunate to live in Colorado where we could appreciate all four seasons. Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying the Fall as well!