Oh my! If every month were like October, Boise would be a gardening mecca. With temps between 60-75° every day, no wind – just the occasional breeze, and a landscape so brilliantly colored that all kinds of people are snapping photos of trees, shrubs, flowers and the like…it would be inevitable.
You see, the loooong warm days and cool nights that turn plant foliage so many shades of autumn (way more than 50) trump dry, hot conditions that were top of most peoples’ minds just a few weeks back. When October rolls around and incredible colors are set against a brilliant, blue sky day-in and day-out regular people (you know, non-garden types) start paying attention to plant life and becoming inspired.
You hear fragments of conversations like this…
Should we get a new tree? What kind of shrub do you think that is? What else flowers in fall besides mums? There are fall raspberries? Maybe we should plant some lettuce now?
I love hearing these musings and I too am usually caught up in the seasonal celebration planning way too many garden projects. I have to remind myself that not every day will be like the month of October and that time is limited and therefore so must be my project list.
So this October I prioritized a new mediterranean-inspired garden bed in the front of my house.
To start the project, I had to finish moving the heaviest permabark ever. If you don’t know what permabark is – be happy. Here is a photo of it and it is a gardener’s nemesis.
It is heavy and hard to get on a shovel. When you do get it in a wheelbarrow you have to be careful to not fill it (the wheelbarrow) more than half full or the load is so heavy you can’t move it. Aarrgh!
Once the rock was abolished, I pulled up the weed barrier (always comes with permabark, another ill landscaping technique) and finally the soil could breathe. Next, some soil amendments. For my heavy clay soil I used peat moss, my homemade compost and a bit of elemental sulphur.
Generally speaking, the heavy clay soil in the Boise area is at the higher end of the pH scale making for soil conditions that tend towards alkalinity. If the pH gets too high many plants cannot access various micronutrients of the soil, especially iron, which leads to a decline in health and possibly chlorosis. Adding sulphur and peat moss adds organic matter to the soil and breaks up the heavy clay particles while helping to maintain or lower pH levels. I’m careful not to go overboard with the sulphur but mix in 2-3 8 oz cups into to each wheelbarrow as an additional amendment.
Next comes the fun – planting in fresh “groomed” soil!
There were a few plants already growing in this area such as fothergilla gardenii and reed feather grass (calamagrostis x acutiflora) ‘Overdam’ so they were kept and I added a few more of each.
My plan was to add mostly low water plants that can take really hot sun all day (Zone 6 hardy) and offer interesting textures. For blooms the color palate is primarily blues, purples, reds, oranges and a little yellow. This bed is pretty much three season interest, unless you count the grasses as the entire show for the fourth season – winter. :)
Here are some of my selections. (Starting at top left and moving clockwise.)
Hardy geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’, muehlenbeckia axillaris ‘Nana’ (wire vine), Amsonia hubrichtii ‘Blue Star’, bearded iris (variety unknown), sedum ‘Blaze of Fulda’, monarda didyama ‘Jacob Cline’, sedum ‘Xenox’, zauschneria garrettii ‘Orange Carpet’, kniphofia ‘Ember Glow’, euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’, Partridge feather, and salvia argentea ‘Artemis’.
I really won’t know how happy I am with the results until things start percolating next Spring. But for now, I am happy to drive up to my home and see a garden in the front instead of a few plants held hostage in a prison of permabark!
And as for the rest of October, well I was outside a lot…closing down the garden…picking the season’s last tomatoes, harvesting fall lettuce, dividing and moving perennials, composting, digging tropicals…you know the drill.
And in my free time away from the garden I was running (not like Forest Gump) just near the Boise River. It is so lovely this time of year, I found it very inspiring both physically and mentally.
Oh, if every month could be October under a big brilliant blue sky!