Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall in the garden

While not technically fall yet, with nights getting in to the 30's and cottonwood leaves turning golden, fall will be here soon. For a lot of reasons, fall is my favorite time of the year, and it is one of my favorite times in the garden. This is the time of the year I really like our little prairie and the look of many of our plants.

It is easy to like flowers in the garden, everyone does, but this time of the year, the grasses are cured golden brown, and the textures of the different species dominate. It is this time of the year, a lawn-alternative garden is much more interesting to me. Some plants, whose flowers are delicate and beautiful, now looking sinister and uninviting like the wavy leaf thistle (Cirsium undulatum, in photos below). In the summer their flowers draw our attention and the attention of butterflies, and in the fall and winter other insects and birds delight in their seeds.
This is a fun time to celebrate the dormancy of plants. Although there my be the temptation to water some plants, try to avoid watering and make a make a native garden something it is not, embrace the changes. This is a fun time of the year to prune, dead head and do some garden maintenance. It is a time to build brush piles for wildlife, and to leave seeds for birds to eats in the winter.
Some recent rains have given new life to some plants. The elkhorn clarkias (Clarkia pulchella) and yellow evening primroses (Oenethera flava) have returned from dormancy and begun flowering (see photo below), some blue flax (Linum lewisii), blanket flowers (Gallarida aristata), and asters (Aster and Erigerion spp.) have also started flowering again.
These small bits of color are made more extreme in contrast to the shades of brown. The browns, though, look and feel more natural this time of year, and give the garden a proper sense of place and season. Bright green irrigated lawns look that much more out of place in the west in autumn.
It is another season to enjoy the garden.


  1. Nights in the 30s? Seriously? I can't decide if that sounds delicious or shivery.

    I do love the dried seedheads. Such an elegant sight.

  2. Oh dear -- we get nights that cold in deepest winter! Your garden looks beautiful.

  3. Where did the summer go? Can it possibly be fall already? Well, at least we'll have planting season hear, I bought the first few thing just today...

  4. I'm with you, David, in greatly enjoying the many shades of brown in the grasses and seedheads this time of year. Thanks for joining in the GGW Design Workshop again this month!