The Urban Gardener: Falling, Falling, Falling

the pineapple sage is still blooming

Thanks to all the rain and the mild temps we had this summer, St. Louis is actually experiencing a Fall this year. Here we are in the second week of November and I’m only wearing a light jacket, and even then it’s only in the early morning.  But what’s more important is the Autumn colors. Though the ground is covered with them, the trees are still covered with leaves – reds, oranges, yellow, burnt sienna, brown, spruce…it’s a painter’s pallet outside and I take every moment when I’m out and about to take them all in and enjoy the view.

Can you believe we were still picking banana peppers in the garden two weeks ago?  We cleared the rest of the garden a while back and started turning it into a compost heap. It’s a great place to dump those coffee grounds every morning. I also raked leaves and added them to the pile. Last weekend I started cutting back the irises that have wilted in the mild frost we’ve had. The hosta, now yellow, will go next. The pumpkins on the front porch, now a touch of Harvest since we didn’t carve them, will eventually find their way into the pile.

One of our rose bushes is still blooming though, along with the pineapple sage. I’ve blogged a lot about pineapple sage over the years. It’s an odd herb we’ve planted for three or four years now because it grows very tall and blooms in October and November. It’s a beautiful red honeysuckle-like flower.  The flavor of the herb itself is very mild and sweet, perfect to put on fruit. But, we don’t harvest it much. We plant it strictly for its color in the Fall.

Speaking of herbs, we had a great season in the herb garden this year. J bought a food dehydrator and used it all summer to dry herbs and store them. We have tons of mint which will be great for hot tea this winter! And we’ll use up the last of the fresh sage in the turkey in a few weeks. We transplanted a lot of the mint this year just to cut it back. It grows like weeds!  But it also makes for a nice white wild flower amongst the other plants in our beds. It also attracts bees and butterflies. You can practically smell it every time you walk outside and walk around the yard.  I gathered some various herbs two weeks ago and made a nice arrangement in a water pitcher for our kitchen windowsill.

I did not plant any spring bulbs this fall. Honestly, I should have divided some of the plants we already have as I did not do that last year either. Some of our older irises are particularly thick. I’ve heard that if you don’t thin them it can affect the number of blooms you have. My mom never moved any of her irises and they have bloomed for years. Now that October has gotten away from us, and it frosted last night, it may be too late for moving anything. But then we are expecting temps in the 60s again this weekend, possibly 70 on Sunday but with scattered storms.  They may prevent me from doing anything outdoors this weekend.  That’s the joy and the “downfall” of having a nice fall. You sometimes forget that winter is coming and you forget to get the fall gardening done.

herbs make a nice arrangement on the windowsill
herbs make a nice arrangement on the windowsill

I also wanted to move some sedums this year, but I don’t think that will happen either. We have two large sedums in the middle of one of our front yard beds, but by the end of summer they get buried under a tall ornamental grass that is near and drapes over them. They are also in an odd spot for sunshine and usually end up burned, unlike the other sedums we have around the yard that never burn and always stay pretty and red through the end of summer into fall.

Then there’s the question of what to do with my mums?  I always love to get mums for the front porch for October and November. I also attempt to transplant them into the yard, but they rarely come back. Last year I bought several small mums and transplanted all of them. Just one actually came back this year and bloomed….only two lil flowers but it did bloom! This year I bought 4 large mums…one red, one orange, one yellow, and one purple. They have started to wilt from the cold, but I’d still like to put them in the ground this weekend just to try to save them!  I am contemplating planting them next to the house to try to keep them warm this winter.  We’ll see…

So there’s lots of procrastination this time of year as the seasons change and the holidays arrive. It all goes by so quickly, doesn’t it?  What are you doing in your garden to wrap up the end of the year?

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