Fall is for Planting


Most of the summer, I looked at this dead tree. It was a star magnolia. It went into last winter without a problem, but it didn’t form its buds, as magnolias do. Perhaps that should have been my first clue that there would be a problem this spring.

Sure enough, this spring, when all the other trees began to flush leaves or blooms, this magnolia did nothing. The Spoiler, ever the optomist, kept saying, let’s just see what happens. By mid-July, it was obvious even to him nothing was going to happem

So we finally cut it down. It is in morning sun, so that gives me some nice options.


I left the self-sown goldenrod on one end of the bed.

In the rest of the bed, I put my “test” plants that had been accumulating all summer. There are 6 veronica (3 blue and 3 white), 2 pink perennial pelargoniums, and 2 smaller hydrangeas.

I also put a dwarf joe pye weed in, and I left some self-sown asters as well. I need some pollinator plants, after all (although the bees loved the veronica all summer, even in pots!)

Generally planting in fall is much better for plants because the soil is still warm. For those of you who live near any type of water, you know how long the water takes to warm in the spring–soil is similar.

Likewise, in the fall, water stays warmer longer than the air–that’s why maritime communities get frost a little later. Again, soil cools more slowly than the air so planting into the fall actually aids the plants by settling them into warm soil.

I will want to watch these–& perhaps mulch them once the ground freezes–so that they don’t “heave up” out of the soil. But otherwise, no other special care is needed.

I still have some bulbs to add here, but nature hasn’t been my friend on the timing–as usual, the rain on the weekend isn’t conducive to bulb planting.

A Different Kind of “Watering”

This lovely gallery of mushrooms is just a small sample of what’s in my yard. There are some even more exotic ones around my neighborhood and I swear I saw something resembling a portobello at work.

It’s all courtesy of the “monsoon September” that we had. I counted almost 14″ of rain at my house, although the official rainfall total at our airport was about half that. I will bet that they don’t have nearly the good variety of mushrooms that I do either!

After another 2.75″ on October 2, these sprang up.

One looks suspiciously like a death cap–I am not testing things out!

Seasonal Plant Migration


This is about as intense as it gets outside, but I have plants all over outside. They need to come in, and the sooner the better–because although the calendar and the temperatures may still say “summer,” the length of visible day (to use a meteorological term) is rapidly declining.

Why is that important? A couple of reasons. Just as it’s important not to put the plants outside in the spring and plunk them down into full sunlight because they’ll burn–even full sun plants can’t go from inside the house to outside because outdoor light is so much stronger–once I move these plants indoors, it will be much darker for them even if I move them into a bright, sunny south window.

It will also be much darker for me! All my nice, bright bay windows, which have been relatively open without plants all summer, will now be filled up again. But that can’t be helped. I don’t live in a climate where I can grow these tropical beauties outside all year round. Memorial Day to Labor Day is their summer vacation–and mine–most years.

The question I get most often when I lecture is what do I do–how do I prepare these plants to come inside? And the truth is that unless I know that a plant has a particular problem (for example, my citrus usually come outside in the spring with scale on them, so I might give them an extra hard spray with the hose before they come in–but they’ll soon be coated in scale again–I just know that and watch for it and try to wash them down regularly), I do absolutely nothing.

I will water the plant thoroughly outside and wash off the outside of the pot–that’s it. But truthfully- nature is far better at taking care of plant pests than we are, usually. That’s why my citrus do far better outside than in my house.

And yes, occasionally I will bring in a cricket–that’s about the worst of it–that I listen to the “cheep” for a few nights until it finds its way out or dies. But nothing terrible–no swarms of insects come in. Those seem to find a way to breed on their own, unrelated to anything, except, perhaps the age and the health of the plants.

And if you know to watch for the first signs, generally as the sun gets stronger in the early spring, you should be fine.



June was abnormally dry. July and this beginning part of August has been uncommonly wet. Lawns look like this. Mushrooms are even sprouting in my flower pots.


I tweeted this photo last week. This is a reminder of how large crab grass can really get–and half of this clump is buried under the rose, weighted down by rainwater. It would be truly impressive if it weren’t so scary.


And for those of you who need a reminder of why I hate mulch–here’s a clump of lupine being consumed by the aptly named “dog vomit” fungus (otherwise known by its more correct name, fulgo septica). Truly lovely.

Before we know it, things will dry out and it will be back to “winter” again here in Connecticut so I will take the heat, moisture, mushrooms and almost everything (but perhaps not slime molds, thank you!) that summer has to offer. Bring it on!

More Arbor-geddon

On Monday I talked about damage from a winter nor’easter that occurred on March 7 in my yard.

But the damage wasn’t limited just to my house, of course. Just about every neighbor on my street had had damage. The arborists are going to be busy for months cleaning up from this storm.

And when I went to our local historical society recently I was shocked to find 4 large eastern white pines down on its property (I am not sure why I was shocked. I guess I thought that maybe being in Hartford might have shielded them somewhat. I was very mistaken.)


The most dramatic damage was to this pine at the entrance to the parking lot. Fortunately it seems to have fallen away from the street and away from the parking lot–it didn’t seen to have been moved there in any way (although with the size of this tree, if it were going to have been moved, I think they would have just had to remove it!)


Over a week later, the air was still fragrant with the smell of fresh pine. That was kind of amazing to me.

As I examined these trees a little closer (and it wasn’t possible to get too close because of a combination of wet snow and soggy ground) I realized what they had in common. Here’s a photo below.


Notice this thicket of brambles? All the tree trunks were also covered with these same vines. It was probably the weight of these vines (in addition to the extremely high winds–and the fact that pines are known to do this) that caused this issue


In 2011–our last storm that caused dramatic tree damage–foresters and arborists claimed that the weight of invasive vines in the tree canopy contributed to the damage. You can dispute that–or not–but all of the tree trunks that fell on this property were covered with these vines. Here is another photo.

The takeaway of course is that invasive vines should be managed. That’s always easier to say than it is to do. I know that from my own property.

And of course none of my trees had the vines on them and they fell anyway. So try as you might, sometimes nature just wins.