Fall is in the Air

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Fall is in the Air

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Fall is in the air with the first frost on the grounds on Wednesday morning, October 7, 2009. The frost was not universal so most tender plants were not nipped. Wednesday was a glorious day without a cloud in the sky until late afternoon.

The Chinese Pistache (Pistachia chinensis) in the nursery has turned a beautiful shade of red. This tree is on trial (two full years now) for the Heartland Harvest Garden as its new shoots are edible and used in China as a vegetable. This tree is well known for its outstanding fall color but is of marginal hardiness in Greater Kansas City. There are good trees from Wichita, Kansas southward. Trees as far south as Tulsa have been killed by past severe winters. Does anyone know of a large, established tree in the Kansas City region? Despite being sold at many stores and nurseries we know of no local, established trees.

Possumhaw a.k.a. Deciduous Holly (Ilex decidua) berries have now ripened and are a brilliant red. Possumhaw berries are showiest after its leaves drop and often hang on the small tree and remain colorful into mid-winter or beyond. I find it one of our most outstanding fall and winter ornamentals. Look for groves of this plant off to the right side of the gatehouse when you enter Powell Gardens. I wrote a plant profile article about this plant that should be in the November issue of The Kansas City Gardener.

Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum and hybrids) are turning wild shades of red. The cultivar ‘Jersey’ is depicted but look for 27 varieties on display in the Heartland Harvest Garden. Be sure and come visit while they are in bloom next spring and certainly don’t miss tasting their abundant blue berries on a visit next summer.

This wonderful clump of flowers are seedlings of ‘Jackie’s’ Mums (Chrysanthemum x morifolium) growing as a companion plant in the Vineyard. Jackie’s mums are from our friend and volunteer Jackie Goetz — a wonderful mix of seedlings from her yard that have thrived for more than 20 years. They are superb insectary plants attracting hoards of late season beneficial insects including butterflies. The flowers are also edible and have a good floral flavor. It is best to snip off the narrow part of the ray “petal” where it attaches to the flower head as that part is bitter. They make a colorful and flavorful addition to a seasonal salad.
The beautiful Mary Rose (Rosa David Austin hybrid) is also in bloom in the Vineyard. Roses are the canary in the mineshaft so to speak in a vineyard. All have edible flowers but I couldn’t bring myself to tasting a petal off these beauties.
The flowers of Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) are also edible, the part nearest the stem contains a drop of sweet nectar too (that you can suck out the end). This is the cultivar ‘Golden Delicious’ with golden foliage all season. Pineapple Sage blooms right around frost time and is often winter hardy if planted in a sheltered site.
The flowers and fruit of Malabar Spinach make it quite a showy ornamental annual vine. Horticulturist Matt Bunch planted these beautiful vines on some of the vineyard hoops and the main arbors in at the center of the quilt gardens. The foliage is a good leafy green (tastes like spinach) for our summer season when lettuces and such languish in the heat. The flowers and fruit show this plant is related to our wild Pokeweed. Do not eat the berries — they often drop and provide new seedlings for next season.
5 color Silverbeet Chard shows off its flaming stems in Rosalind Creasy’s Author’s Garden. Who said vegetables were not colorful!
With recent cool weather most of the Heartland Harvest Gardens veggie beds have been replanted with cool season, frost tolerant vegetables. Here’s a sample from the Villandry Quilt Garden.
Many herbs are still very colorful in the fall season. Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) still is covered with its flat-topped, yellow flower clusters. Bronze Fennel is an exceptional perennial herb that attracts many beneficial insects and a good addition to any insectary garden. Here it is growing along the Pear Promenade as it is a companion plant to Pears.
Rue (Ruta graveolens) is also in bloom in the Silver and Gold Border of the Kitchen Garden on the south side of the barn.
Lime Peppermint (Mentha aquatica var. citrata ‘Lime) is still flowering in the wonderful tapestry of mints layed out along the Pear Promenade. I think mints deserve use as groundcovers! You can use them as flavoring and they bloom over a long period time attracting all sorts of beneficial insects. They hold the ground well too! Much more environmentally friendly than Vinca, Pachysandra or English Ivy in our region. THEY DO RUN so make sure you give them their own space — those along the Pear Promenade have a trench between each bed of a variety. DO NOT plant them in refined gardens where they will assault all adjacent plants — plant them in containers under such circumstances.
Grapefruit Mint (Mentha aquatica var. citrata ‘Grapefruit’) has been exceptionally floriferous late this season.
Here’s an example of our scarecrows currently on display. They often startle me a bit as I think they are actual visitors in the garden.
The silo is now open to visitors! Come experience its stunning view of the garden and surrounding countryside. All photographs taken Wednesday, October 7, 2009, by Alan Branhagen.