Category Archives: Fall

The Change Of Season Inspires Us – We Love Fall!

The other day I reran a blog post from last year showing some of our fall-inspired arrangements, noting that I needed to write another for this season. A quick reply came from a FaceBook friend. “I want to see them. Get posting!”

So, while there are so many more we’ve done that aren’t pictured, here’s a sampling of arrangements using pumpkins and gourds, bittersweet and burlap, plants and dried materials, acorns and pinecones, literally anything that has inspired us this season. We hope they inspire you too.

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Mums…And More!!!!

Every year around August and September, when the heat of summer has wiped out once fresh spring plantings, almost daily we hear one of two questions from multiple people – “Do you have any mums?” and  (insert desperate tone here) “When can I plant pansies??!??”

Well, as of this writing we do have plenty of mums, and, no, it’s not time to plant pansies – yet (October and November are the months, when temperatures begin to cool a bit.). But why settle for a simple mum now when growers are offering so much more this time of year? Here are a few interesting plants to use with the usual mums until its time for the winter fare of pansies, snapdragons, ornamental veggies, and more.

A difficult plant to find but one that offers gorgeous fall color is hamelia. Enjoy it’s orange blossoms and beautiful foliage in a special container. Add some sweet alyssum and petunias to add even more interest. The planter shown here also has a small pot of asters that once finished blooming can be removed and planted in the garden.

Marigolds are my unsung heroes of the autumn season. They bloom like crazy given some sunshine, prefer the cooler temperatures of fall, and offer loads of color. Who wouldn’t love that? I use them in the garden and tuck red or green lettuce and sweet alyssum in between for even more color. Try to use marigolds in planters or places you won’t be planting pansies though, because it can be difficult to make the decision to pull them out as they last even through a light frost.

Another that has become a popular addition to the fall plant palette is the ornamental pepper. These small plants loaded with colorful fruit are an unexpected and fun way to usher in a new season. Add some cosmos too for added interest.

Don’t forget that foliage plants can add color as well. Heuchera offers colorful leaves for just about any combination, and the lowly ajuga can be beautiful  too. Whatever you decide on,  remember that there’s much more than mums for long lasting fall beauty; so venture out of the mum comfort zone and give them some companions this year!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

Decorating For Fall With Pumpkins And Gourds

Pumpkin StackEven if the temperatures have been slow to reflect fall, we are determined to celebrate a change of season.

The arrival of so many pumpkins and gourds in all sizes, shapes, and colors spur us on in our quest for the perfect choices for arranging in containers or to artfully stack at the front door.Pumpkin Display

 

 

Each year begins the same, with the first shipment unloaded and carefully placed, separated by variety. Long Island Cheese, Jharadales, Lumina, Fairytale and Cinderella pumpkins, Turk’s Turbans and the wonderfully bumpy Lunch Lady gourds (Yes,  they’re really called lunch ladies!) and more, all neatly set out.

PumpkinsSoon though, usually beginning with the second large delivery, all semblance of order gets tossed out the window, as we place pumpkin after pumpkin wherever we can find a spot.

That’s really how I like it best, with piles of orange, green, blue, cream, and white pumpkins creating a jumble of chaotic color in all shapes and sizes. It’s difficult to choose just one!Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangement

The cats soon discover new places to nap underneath and In the shade of the raised platforms we use for display of this beautiful fall harvest, coming out only when little ones spy them at eye level.

Long, vining stems of bittersweet hang above, another decorative staple of the season. For over 25 years they’ve been hand cut for us from our North Carolina supplier high in the mountains.Cloche with Mini White Pumpkin

Mini pumpkins and tiny gourds find homes in all manner of containers, nestled in beds of moss and angel vine, or carefully arranged to look as though they were casually placed.

White Pumpkin Arrangement

 

 

 

Usually these designs come together easily, but sometimes it takes more than a few tries to get it just right. We are all perfectionists!Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangement

Please stop in and celebrate the season with us. Even if you just come to look, we usually have something fun to see that we’re either working on or have completed in our design area right up front. Know someone that needs a pick me up? Bring them along!

By Kris Blevons

Pumpkins, Gourds and our Annual Fall Festival

PumpkinsThe temperatures are still summerlike,  but the pumpkins that need harvesting don’t know that, and what a harvest it’s been! We get the most beautiful pumpkins and gourds from a small farmer in Tennessee, and when he calls letting us know the harvest is ready, we make room for bin after bin of familiar and unusual varieties.Pumpkins

 

 

 

 

We have to get creative with our small space when so many come in at one time; but last year Billy came up with a method using sails to shade them from our hot southern sun, and Bert built platforms to keep them off the sometimes wet asphalt. Even so, we’ve commandeered table space too! It seems wherever you look there are pumpkins and pumpkin stacks!

Pumpkin Stacks

 

Saturday, October 8th we’ll be offering the orange jack-o-lanterns for carving and pie pumpkins for the little ones to decorate during our annual fall festival. Then they can check out the bounce house – it’s all free! This year we’re contributing a portion of the proceeds to Studio By The Tracks, and owner Billy Angell will be braving a dunk tank for donations. Our friends from SBTT will be here  with art work, artists painting, and merchandise from the studio as well. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by!

 

By Kris Blevons

Early Fall Arrivals

 

August and September are usually hot and dry, but even with the lack of rain the transition into a new season has begun.  Many summer garden beds are tired and planters are overgrown or just plain gone. In the nursery business we look forward to October and new offerings of plants, as well as the beauty of pumpkins and gourds. Just when we need a fresh start, it arrives with new selections for the autumn plant palette, mumsmarigolds, and the first of the violas and pansies.

Marigolds come in all sizes, from tiny starter plants in cell packs or 4″ pots  perfect for tucking into tired pots, to 10″ offerings big enough to fill a planter all on their own. Mums covered in buds come in 8″ and larger pots, in many colors and make a big statement where it’s needed.  Be sure to handle them gently, as bud laden stems can break easily. Mums and marigolds aren’t available for long, but they offer transitional color if you choose to plant pansies and violas when the weather is cooler.

More herbs are beginning to fill  the nursery,  including rosemary that will carry on through the winter. We’re just beginning to get the first of the curly parsley that is so beautiful in winter beds and planters, and  ornamental and edible kale, mustards and more are beginning to appear also. Late summer brings perennials too. Have you tried heuchera in the garden or pots? They’re beautiful in part sun or full shade. Just be certain not to over water.

The greenhouse goes through transitions too. From succulents to many types of ferns and more, the amount of plants stays constant, though the variety changes with availability. So if your plants need refreshing with the new season, come take a look!

By Kris Blevons

 

Thoughts Of Fall On A Rainy Weekend In November

Liam, sunning himself on a warm fall day...

Liam, sunning himself on a warm fall day…

Every year it happens. Fall arrives, and we welcome it with open arms as a happy counterpoint to months of sizzling temperatures.

Fall - Mini Pumpkin Stack

mini pumpkin stack…design Molly Hand

 

Fall - Violas, Peppers and Minipumpkins

design Molly Hand

It comes just in time too, since by this point  we’ve tired of watching spring plantings gradually and inexorably succumb to summer’s never ending heat and humidity.

Branches of bittersweet and mini pumpkins accent an oncidium orchid...

Branches of bittersweet and mini pumpkins accent an oncidium orchid…design Jamie Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the new season come truckloads of pumpkins, branches of bittersweet, traditional mums, and sweet pansies, showing all the hues  of the harvest, blanketing the front of  the shop with a riot of color.

Fall - PansiesFall - Pansies

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Orchid Arrangement

Dendrobiums in Cork Bark…design Jamie Cross

 

Even the orchids give way, the elegant white phalaenopsis stepping aside as oncidiums and dendrobiums in shades of yellows, golds, deep purples, and browns take center stage.

End of the season coleus mingle with ornamental peppers...

End of the season coleus mingle with ornamental peppers…design Kris Blevons

Fall - Arrangement

Harvest centerpiece…design Kris Blevons

Working with plants as we do, the seasons seem to be magnified somehow.

 

 

Our livelihoods are driven by them, and we look forward to the next, even as we finally tire of the previous palette’s flowers, herbs, shrubs, vegetables.

 

 

Of all the seasons, fall seems to be the most fleeting, at least here in Birmingham, Alabama.

Fall - Pumpkins

Perhaps it’s the relentless march of the holidays, with Thanksgiving  accordioned between October and December, and hearing the strains of Christmas music all too soon.

 

Harvest centerpiece...

Harvest centerpiece…design Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall - Arrangement

Fall centerpiece in a tray…design Jamie Cross

 

 

 

Cotton bolls in arranged with pods and stems, in a pumpkin...

Cotton bolls, pods, and branches in a pumpkin…design Kris Blevons

So, as I write this on a rainy Saturday in November, with Thanksgiving still weeks away, I’m already feeling melancholy for fall.

Fall - Gourd and Bittersweet

design Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

Fall - Mailbox Decoration

Fall mailbox swag…design Kris Blevons

 

 

Fall - Arrangement

Heuchera, carex and mini pumpkins…design Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The harvest season simply doesn’t last long enough for me. Looking through the pictures to add to this post lifted my spirits,  and I hope they do yours too.

Pumpkin centerpieces...

Pumpkin centerpieces…design Jamie Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall - Arrangement

Arranged in a shallow tray…design Kris Blevons

 

 

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and the opportunity to celebrate all we have to be thankful for, and I’m trying to remember to enjoy each season, even those that pass far too quickly.

Planted...violas, herbs and pods...design Molly Hand

Planted…violas, herbs and pods…design Molly Hand

 

 

Fall - Lettuce and Herb Arrangements...

Wine boxes…design Kris Blevons

Orchids and Gourds Arrangement

Log Planter…design Jamie Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A final thought; Don’t allow yourself to get overly stressed during the coming holidays. Try to appreciate each day and the beauty it brings, and, above all, remember to slow down and breathe. A new season with fresh beginnings is right around the corner.

 

By Kris BlevonsFall - PumpkinsFall - Gourd Arrangement

Fall in the greenhouse..

Fall in the greenhouse..

Fall...Yellowwood tree

Yellowwood tree changing with the season in the garden…

 

Pineapple Sage, A Late Season Bloomer That’s Worth The Wait!

Late season color isn’t limited to asters and mums. Another that takes center stage this time of the year, and that makes us wait all summer, is the pineapple sage, Salvia elegans. And elegant  it is, with beautiful red blooms that begin in October and continue through the month. I’m sure their scarlet red blooms, signaling nectar, are a happy sight for migrating hummingbirds too. The one pictured here is just beginning to bloom in my garden.

Introduced into horticulture around 1870, pineapple sage has been around awhile, and new cultivars include a yellow-green leaf version. I prefer the old standby with medium green leaves that grows about 4 1/2 tall and makes a wide clump with age. Give it room!

Buds just beginning to form...

Buds just beginning to form…

 Put it in a sunny spot, keep it watered, and be prepared to wait for buds that begin to form in late September…about when another beautiful salvia, Mexican Sage, Salvia leucantha, also begins to show color. In Birmingham pineapple sage  is a tender perennial and will die to the ground with a killing frost. Knowledge is power. Knowing it is tender, be certain  to mulch it well with shredded pine bark or pinestraw. 

Brushing against the leaves of pineapple sage is an olfactory pleasure, as it really does smell exactly like  pineapple. They’re edible and can be made into a tea or chopped into salads. The brilliant red blooms can be eaten too, but I prefer them as a striking garnish on a plate and would rather look at them than eat them I think!

If you’d like to try this beautiful salvia in your garden, stop in. There are some available now.

By Kris Blevons

A Trio of Pots – Color and Texture In A Late Summer Planting

Summer can be hard on container gardens in the south. It’s so easy to finally just give up on them, especially when a last end of the season getaway beckons, or you’ve forgotten to water once too many times and the poor plants just look too sad for words. Well,  I’m here to tell you it’s ok.

You can forgive yourself for your forgetful plant parenting, because September is the beginning of a new season – we can call it the pre-pansy season, because even though it’s still too early to plant pansies and violas,  there are some other options to tide you over until cooler weather finally comes.

I had the opportunity to give a trio of pots just such a makeover the other day. There were actually two – a half planter, a terra cotta pot, and a cast stone pedestal the owners wanted a new planter set on.

Arranging them...

Arranging them…

Because their pots and pedestal are all of different materials and colors, I chose a simple lightweight black bowl to sit on the pedestal. The size works well with the others and adds a different shape too. I’ve suggested in past posts that wandering the garden shop picking up plants and grouping them together to see how they’ll work together is a great way to design plantings, and that’s just what I did here.Trio of Fall Pots

I changed and rearranged them until I was satisfied. It’s important,  however, to understand how each plant will grow out in a composition like this since  there are “many parts to the whole.”

Here’s what I came up with  for this trio of pots. I started with the deep red fountain grass for its beautiful fall color, and  I liked how it blended with the dark leaves of the heuchera in each pot. They also show up well against the cream color of the brick.

Trio of Fall PotsA blue-green fescue adds another, shorter, grass element, contrasting with the smaller, rounder leaves of the trailing angelvine and creeping jenny. White petunias add brightness and will also trail.

The red fountain grass is an annual, so it will be pulled out with the onset of cold weather and the bay planted with it will stay. In the terra cotta planter there’s a small arborvitae, and In each pot some elements are repeated so it’s not too chaotic looking…

Trio Of Fall PotsMaintenance will mean consistent watering since the planting will become root bound – in the smaller pots especially, and the petunias will need to be deadheaded to keep them  blooming. A few pumpkins and gourds would also look great at the base through the fall…

With the onset of cooler weather and pansy season, the petunias can be replaced by white (Or a color if they prefer.)  pansies or violas. The remainder of the plants are perennial, so can be left through the winter. They’re situated against a wall which should help keep them warm, but it would be smart to protect them with a covering if temps fall below freezing for any length of time.

By Kris Blevons

The End Of The Season…Fall Arrangements

A reindeer moss wreath, with burlap and pods...

A reindeer moss wreath, with burlap and pods…

A copper planter for a table. Jamie's colorful fall design of chartreuse, orange and white...

A copper planter for a table. Jamie’s colorful fall design of chartreuse, orange and white…

Autumn  passes far too quickly. As usual, when a season is nearing the end, I find myself wishing I’d made the time to take more pictures of the many arrangements that we’ve created the past few weeks. Jamie, Molly, and I looked through those we had and here are a few of them – a simple goodbye to the autumn season for another year as we set our sights ahead to the holidays.

A vignette Jamie created with an orchid, sedum, tiny pumpkins and more...

A vignette Jamie created with an orchid, sedum, tiny pumpkins and more…

Pinkie used little white pumpkins, succulents, and bittersweet in a dough bowl...

Pinkie used little white pumpkins, succulents, and bittersweet in this dough bowl…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This simple tray became home to a gourd, mushrooms and moss, with Heuchera and autumn Fern adding more rich color...

My simple tray became home to a gourd, mushrooms and moss, with Heuchera and Autumn Fern adding more rich color…

A dough bowl Jamie designed...

A dough bowl Jamie designed…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall is a favorite time, as the materials we work with are so interesting and organic. There’s none of the shiny, glittery, in-your-face glitz that will be here, oh, so soon enough, with the approach of Christmas. No, this time of year is quieter, as we embrace the down-to-earth beauty of mushrooms, soft green moss, natural branches, dark wiry angelvine, pods of all kinds, and interesting gourds. I enjoy the combinations that result, melded at times with the muted tones of burlap and raffia.

Molly's spirited fall arrangement with bright yellow Oncidium orchids...

Molly’s spirited fall arrangement with bright yellow Oncidium orchids…

I really enjoyed creating this "woodsy" piece...

I really enjoyed creating this “woodsy” piece…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall flowers in pretty pots for a fall luncheon...

For a fall luncheon..

Oncidium Orchid 'Twinkle' Arrangement With Okra Pods and Pinecones

Oncidium ‘Twinkle’ in a sweet combination of Jamie’s. Okra pods and pinecones add even more texture…

My simple lady slipper orchid arrangement, watched over by pretty Tacca, our garden shop kitty…

 

 

Dená carved this pretty blue pumpkin, and daughter, Molly, planted it...

Dená carved this pretty blue pumpkin and daughter, Molly, planted it…

We see such interesting pieces in the fall too. Earthy dough bowls, dark metal planters and copper containers, low wooden trays just perfect for mossy vignettes, a majolica bowl the right size and shape for a woodsy arrangement. Soon enough we’ll be making quite different sorts of combinations through the holidays, with quite different materials. For now though, I’m content to enjoy these last few days of fall.

A colorful fall piece Molly created using houseplants and mini pumpkins...

A final fall piece Molly created using houseplants and mini pumpkins…

 

Amaryllis – Beauty In A Bulb

Amaryllis, unquestionably, are one of the most dramatic and elegant of flowers. That bold, beautiful blooms of all colors and sizes can emerge from such a drab, unassuming brown bulb is amazing. They are truly a wonder of nature!

Decorative moss and pebbles dress up this amaryllis bulb...

Decorative moss and pebbles dress up this amaryllis bulb…

Amaryllis in the greenhouse...

Amaryllis in the greenhouse…

Our final shipment of amaryllis bulbs arrived the other day and now is the perfect time to pot them up for the holidays. It’s so easy to do too.  My  friend, Nancy Wallace of Wallace Gardens  in Atlanta,  swears by soaking the bulb in Haven Brand Manure Tea, an odorless tea that we have in stock now, for an even better display.

In a shallow saucer filled with about an inch of this concentrated tea, soak the roots of the bulbs for no more than 20 minutes, then plant. From her picture I featured in the above link, she’s on the right track. I’ll be soaking mine this year!

Amaryllis arrangement...

Amaryllis arrangement…

So, you want to purchase an amaryllis bulb (or more than one) for yourself or as gifts for friends? First, you need to know that the size of the bulb corresponds to the size and amount of blooms. Their sizes range from “miniature” amaryllis bulbs to jumbo amaryllis and there are midsize bulbs as well.

Large blooms of this amaryllis offer a contrast to the fragrant jasmine...

Large blooms of this amaryllis offer a contrast to the fragrant jasmine…

Beware of gift boxes and bags already prepackaged. I’ve stopped carrying them because, inevitably, the bulb begins to grow in the box prior to purchase. Believe me, there’s nothing sadder than an amaryllis, stem bent toward the light, growing sideways out of a box. It’s just not right!

Potting them up is quite simple. First, soak your amaryllis bulb as described above so the roots rehydrate. Next, find a pot that is no more than an inch or so wider than the bulb and fill it with good quality potting soil (We use Fafard.) about half way up the pot. Next, position the bulb on the soil, pushing the roots firmly in place. The “shoulder”, or widest portion of the bulb, should be above the soil. Fill in around the bulb, push down gently, and water with some of the remaining manure tea.

Amaryllis Arrangement

The hardest part is the wait for the bud to begin to emerge. It may take just a few days in a warm, sunny room, but it can just as easily take longer. Amaryllis don’t always cooperate with our timetables. Take a look at this “Holiday Flowers” post from last year and you’ll see what I mean. When you do see new growth starting to emerge, begin to water just so the soil stays slightly moist and watch the magic happen! You can also “dress up” the top of the soil with decorative moss or pebbles. Amaryllis

In bloom amaryllis can get quite tall  and will usually benefit from some type of staking. In addition to simple bamboo stakes,  stems of red and yellow twig dogwood, birch, curly willow, or branches from your landscape can be used. Insert the staking material at the edge of the bulb and tie it with raffia or ribbon.

Amaryllis, budded, with ferns, and stems of pussywillow...

Amaryllis, budded, with ferns, and stems of pussywillow…

The pictures here show what we’ve done in the past using amaryllis. They make wonderful presents during the holiday season and simply watching the bloom stalk grow taller and the enormous buds begin to open is a gift in itself!

In addition to bulbs that are available for you to plant, we also will be receiving many amaryllis already potted up from our growers. So, if you’re in the Birmingham area, there’s  no excuse not to have one of these holiday favorites!