Fall vibes is a hashtag used all over the internet. Cozy vibes is its pumpkin-scented counterpart. I don’t know why, but both of them make me laugh. Consider this my fall vibes garden edition, kinda like the various editions of Monopoly, my favorite being the discontinued garden one.
Tired after a long, hot summer? Me too.
Last week, I gave a talk to the Logan County Master Gardeners, and while we set up the projector, I asked them how their summer gardens went. After a pause, we all just laughed. Summer was pretty brutal this year.
We’re all so sick of it that even when temperatures rose to 85° in central Oklahoma this week after a short freeze, I saw many of you at Target wearing lightweight sweatshirts with your Birkenstocks while sipping apple crumble lattes. Incongruent yes, but winter will soon arrive, and, like you, I don’t plan to give up autumn a moment before I must.
In fact, I have chili in the crockpot, which smells divine even if our temperatures suggest I grill chicken outside.
That fall vibes feeling.
In my last post, I wrote about fall favorites, but I think we should now focus on fall vibes. This morning, I took photos of my garden after that first freeze. We got down to 28° for only three hours here in our Little Cedar Garden. City and town temperatures are always warmer due to paved streets and brick structures holding in the heat.
Short and faded grows the meadow, but it still has autumnal vibes.
It is so dry here that some colors seem muted, and plants are definitely stunted, especially in the upper pasture meadow. To save water in our drought, I didn’t water the meadow this summer, which shows. It is no longer green and growing, but I hope we will get rain Monday and the water will soak into the soil.
Still, hopeful for more rain, I spread seeds of Verbesina enceloides, golden crownbeard, Liatris spicata, spiked gayfeather, Erigeron formosissimus, showy daisy mountain aster, and Asclepias speciosa, showy milkweed. This is in addition to the Okies for Monarchs wildflower seed mix I spread earlier in October before the last rain.
Like Johnny Appleseed, I wait for prairie plants like Eupatorium serotinum, late boneset, and Rudbeckia maxima, giant coneflower, to finish setting seed in my cultivated garden. I then take their seeds and scatter them in the upper pasture too. It is cheaper than buying seeds, and I’m starting to see some progress.
I had very good drifts of Gaillardia pulchella, Indian blanket, and several other wildflowers like Dracopis amplexicaulis, clasping coneflower, blooming this spring and early summer. I’m also starting to see native grasses like Schizachyrium, small bluestem, Sorghastrum nutans, Indiangrass, and Andropogon gerardi, big bluestem, return. I am still working to eradicate the johnsongrass up there too, but I see less of it each year.
We won’t mow the pasture until spring. I was also asked whether I plow up the area. No, I don’t because I want the established perennials and native grasses to stay. One day, I may burn the upper pasture in spring if we get wet weather. Some seeds won’t germinate without fire.
In the back garden, there are still a few asters in flower. It’s now the late, late show, and we really need rain to give the best fall vibes. I’m still seeing a few butterflies and moths too, but the monarchs are now in Texas and Mexico, which is good. I always miss them when they move on, but I’ll save their flowers and milkweed until they return in spring next year. I had a few monarchs in the garden all summer, which was special.
The roses are no longer at their best, and cucumber beetles are all over them. This is normal and nothing to worry about. I do enjoy seeing spiders creeping up on them, as in the photo below.
Wait until November to plant fall bulbs.
In November, I will plant my bulbs, and to do that, I must cut some of the perennials back. Otherwise, I leave the garden intact all winter. Insects overwinter in stems and beneath leaf litter.
Plus, plants that die well add structure and form to the winter garden. Piet Oudolf and Helen Dillon both write and speak of plants that die well. I like that thought and consider it when planning a garden or coaching someone about theirs.
Plant oakleaf and panicle hydrangeas for four seasons of interest.
Another way to create fall vibes is to plant for four seasons of interest. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ or one of her relatives like Invicibelle® Ruby or Incrediball® all have four seasons of interest. Several years ago, I received a test plant of Invincibelle® Ruby, which I like very much. It grows shorter than ‘Annabelle’ here and would look great in a staggered row near the front of the border. So, I would encourage you to plant more hydrangeas for Oklahoma’s finicky climate if you want autumnal vibes.
Hang in there and enjoy the fall vibes wherever you grow.