Fall is a time of renewal in southern gardens. It’s also a time to change your front door decor. Foliage color changes, cool weather plants like pansies, asters and mums, less intense sun, and cooler mornings make any gardener in a hot climate sigh with relief.
When I hired landscaping help several years ago, I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the changes in my small, shady front lawn and garden. Enjoy it I do. Tony’s team made the borders wider, giving me more space to place pumpkins, gourds and knobby squash. When the leaves of the Japanese maples and the dogwood begin to turn, it is so beautiful. We’re still in the green foliage stage in September and early October, but it won’t be long now.
Helen Weis of Unique by Design Landscaping and Containers brought me two large Mexican pots last year when she designed several containers and placed them in my garden for a story she did for Fine Gardening magazine. I love them so much. This year, I took a Talavera pumpkin she also gave me two autumns ago and placed it right by the front door. You can see it in the two top photos. For night time fun, I added battery operated orange LED lights to all of my jack-o-lanterns. The lights don’t have a timer so I asked Siri to remind me every night at bedtime to turn them off. Amazing what you can do with a cell phone. I raised my large Talavera pumpkin a little with a brick and then piled squash and pumpkins (which are also winter squash) around it.
I don’t want to give you the idea that I’m some of kind of super landscape designer who figured all of this stuff out and just threw it together. It takes time and a touch of playfulness to discover the right combinations.I went to the Edmond Earth Pumpkin Patch twice–a 36 mile round trip each time, but that’s not all. I moved a lot of pumpkins and pots the last few days. I also planted four flats of pansies and violas, seven large kales and a lot of other plants. I should pull the coleus in the photo above, but I just couldn’t yet even if they do look a bit scraggly. I’m hoping they will stay nice until the mums bloom. One can dream anyway.
Oh, I almost forgot. I’m supposed to tell you the Edmond Earth Pumpkin Patch has several signed copies of my book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff, to sell. So, if you have a birthday boy or girl in need of a present, buy them my book.
I bought most of my pumpkins and bird neck gourds and squash from Sondra who owns that fab pumpkin patch. I also went to Under the Sun on Bryant and 2nd Street in Edmond and bought Delta Mixed Berry Tart pansies. I like all of the Delta pansy series, but this is the first year I’ve grown this mix. I brought home two flats, and I should have made it four. Always double the number of flowers you think you’ll need. Do as I say, not as I do. Otherwise, you’ll be schlepping back to the nursery multiple times.
I also bought several, very large kale plants. Remember that decorative kale looks smaller when planted in ground, and you want it well on its way to maturity before winter hits. It’s smarter just to pay the price and buy the larger plant. Try to find ones that haven’t started to elongate and bolt. In September, Oklahoma had a long, warm dry spell, and I noticed kale in some greenhouses starting to bolt.
I have two new Talavera jack-o-lanterns. I bought one from Edmond Earth Pumpkin Patch on 5th and Broadway. I bought the other, which is actually a ball and can be turned for other seasons, at an OHS function last week. Another note, OHS is having its Oklahoma Garden Tour for Connoisseurs this weekend. I’ll be in the Balaban garden in the morning from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
I then made a trip to Guthrie because I didn’t buy enough pansies. Stout Greenhouse is open for fall this year. They also had great pumpkins for good prices. I bought a few pumpkins there. I also bought Delta Fire pansies. They look nothing like the Delta Mixed Berry Tart. In fact, they are practically color opposites as you can see in the photo above.
I have this problem–pansy schizophrenia–that’s what I call it anyway. I always want all the colors, and once I finally decide on a theme, I turn around and buy some that are completely different. It must be all those jeweled colors. I told myself I bought Delta Fire to use them in the pots and nowhere else. Then, I had a few left over that I used in the other bed. So, I bought some small mixed violas in yellow, blue and white to tie the two colors together much as possible. The nice thing about yellow is that it is a good transition color.
You can see where this is going. Another trip to the nursery. All told, I went to three nurseries, a box store for spray paint and Hobby Lobby for dried grape vines. I was going to paint some of the pumpkins, but then, I decided I liked them better au naturel. There are so many pumpkin varieties and colors these days. I will be spray painting the grapevine in the pots a bronze or silver to go with my wreath because I can’t see the black in the shade. Oh, and the rug with the colors that started this whole mess came from Target.
Someone on Twitter’s garden chat asked me the other night what crotons are. Crotons are simply the best thing that ever happened to southern gardens in the fall. Once they were only sold to wholesale landscape designers, but now you can find them at local nurseries and box stores. To get that full designer look, you must buy the largest crotons you can find. Being tropical, they’ll burn if temperatures dip below 45 degrees fahrenheit unless you cover them with trash bags. However, that doesn’t happen here until late October. When temperatures finally freeze, you can plant tulip bulbs in their place. The terra cotta pots, above, are treated to be frost resistant, but they will still need some protection from freezing temperatures.
Autumn is my favorite season because it is the culmination of everything I’ve worked for all year. It deserves a celebration. I told my daughter, Bear, my theory about fall and the orange lights for the jack-o-lanterns. She smiled indulgently. She’s fifteen now, and I sometimes feel like she’s the parent instead of me.
Tired, I also said I didn’t know for whom I was doing all of this since we live out in the country, and rarely does anyone come to our door. We don’t get trick or treaters, and most of my kids are now grown and in college. I don’t really have neighbors who are interested either.
Home from school, she was headed into the house to drop her backpack, but she turned and said, “Why, Mama, you’re doing it for me.”
I nearly teared up, but instead I smile. I don’t get these jewels very often anymore, so I cherish them when they come. Tonight, as I flip the switches on those LED lights, I’ll think about how much she loves me.
Happy Fall everyone. I hope your front door decor goes smoother than mine.