Category Archives: Fall

Bachelor Buttons…Plant Some This Fall for a Blue, Blue Spring!

Newly planted...

Newly planted…

I planted some bachelor buttons, Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Boy’, in my garden the other day. Usually transplants of these beautiful spring to early summer bloomers are hard to come by until very late fall almost into winter, and I’ve planted them that late with success.

So blue...

So blue…

This year, though, one of our local growers already has some available! So, if you’re in the Birmingham area, make some room in your garden so you can enjoy the bluest of blues next spring like I do every year along with my roses, foxglove, and snapdragons.

To help you understand where they will work best for you, keep in mind that they’ll grow to 3′ and become very full, especially if you cut them back a bit early in the spring. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but I’ve found it keeps mine from sprawling and they still get quite tall. One of my best combinations (Quite by accident!), and one I’ve repeated, is bachelor button and Baptisia shown here.

With Baptisia in the spring...

With Baptisia in the spring…

You may happen upon your own beautiful combinations though. Just remember to give them some sun and don’t baby them too much. Average soil is fine since they are really amazingly tough plants, and only the heat of summer will end the blue wave of carnation like flowers.

The blue of a bachelor button is simply incomparable – cornflower blue. It was once called “boutonnière flower” because the small, bright blue flowers were once commonly used by bachelors tucked into buttonholes on their suits. It’s also been called “Ragged Robin” and “Cornflower”.

Many of you have noticed the bachelor buttons in our sign planter in front of Oak Street Garden Shop each spring. By the time you notice them blooming, it’s too late to plant them. Don’t miss out this year!

Crotons: Beautiful Foliage for Fall Color!

image

It’s after Labor Day, and fall is right around the corner. After going through a long, hot summer, planters and beds look, shall we say, a tad tired. Well, of course, they are.

If you planted pots at the first hint of warm weather in April, no matter how diligent you were at deadheading and cutting back, many of your annuals have had enough of the endless heat and periodic dry spells by September.

Croton 'Sloppy Paint'

So, what to do?  Well, there are certainly the ubiquitous mums, and we’ll have plenty of them in all sizes and colors for you to use. But work the pretty fall hues of yellow, orange, or red marigolds into your autumn flower planters, add a few ornamental pepper plants, and now you’ll be getting somewhere! Finally, to really take it up a notch, add some colorful foliage.

Croton 'Freckles' But “What colorful foliage?”,  you’re thinking by now. So glad you asked! What we have in mind are the brightly patterned leaves of crotons. Up to now you might have thought of them as simply a pretty houseplant for bright spots in your home.

But, luckily, these tough plants can also work beautifully outside too in combination planters or on their own.Croton 'Shoestring' Croton 'Mammy'

Some we’ve gotten in recently highlight the different sizes and patterning of the leaves. Who knew the hybridizers could come up with such variations! Even the names  – ‘Sloppy Paint‘, ‘Freckles‘, and ‘Dreadlocks‘, just to name a few –  bring a smile.

Croton 'Tamara'The best thing about crotons is that their coloration becomes more pronounced with plenty of sun, which is what the marigolds and other plants listed above prefer. Finally, surround your planting with pumpkins and gourds (or tuck a few into the base of your planting)  to create a festive tableau for fall…perfect!

Since crotons also do double duty as houseplants, bring yours inside when nighttime temperatures dip into the 40’s. Carefully remove it from your outdoor planter, and repot into a container just a bit larger than the rootball. Be sure your pot has a drainage hole. Spray the undersides and tops of the leaves with a soap spray to rid it of any insects that might try to hitch a ride indoors, and place your croton in as bright a spot as possible. Don’t overwater during the winter months, it’s best to let the soil dry completely, then water well.  During these colder periods of the year it’s growth slows, so fertilize no more than once a month with a liquid, even formula (20-20-20) fertilizer.

 

More Miniature Gardens

A succulent miniature garden...

A succulent miniature garden…

The miniature gardening trend continues, and we’re sure having fun with it. From tiny gardens in glass terrariums to a saucer planted with driftwood and a place to sit along the “water”, these little gardens spark the imagination of gardeners of all ages.

Tiny temptations...

Tiny temptations…

 

 

 

 

 

Two 20-something women walked in the other day, and one of them immediately spotted the miniature garden display. “Oh, look!”, she said excitedly. “Aren’t these cute?”  Her friend was skeptical. “Uh, sure…”, she answered. “Whatever you say.”

Tending a tiny garden...

Tending a tiny garden…

 

 

 

Not swayed by her friend’s decided lack of enthusiasm, the first started looking through the miniature accessories, oohing and aahing at each tiny piece.

 

 

A cozy spot to sit...

A cozy spot to sit…

“I want to make one of these gardens!”,  she declared. Her friend walked closer and looked at the pieces she had in her hand. “You should have a bench.”, she stated. “And look at this tub with wine bottles in it. That would be really cute, wouldn’t it?”

As I listened to them, it became quite clear that the skeptical one (I was beginning to call her this in my head.) was being completely drawn into the fun of creating a tiny world with her friend.

 

A pumpkin patch under a windmill...

A pumpkin patch under a windmill…

I walked up and started talking with them, asking if they had any questions about the miniature gardens.

The first one again said she wanted to make one and asked if I would help her because she thought it would be so much fun.  “Of course.”, I said. “It’s summer and pretty slow, I think we could put something together for you today.”

On the other side of the bridge...

On the other side of the bridge…

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the garden she made with a lot of helpful suggestions from her friend, but I can tell you it turned out really well. A red Adirondack chair, the tiny tub with iced drinks, a beach along the water, some succulents planted  in strategic places, and – Voila! – a miniature garden completed.

 

 

A broken pot is home to morel mushrooms...

Little chickens…

Soon new miniature garden accessories will be arriving, including tiny gourds and white pumpkins for fall gardens…and scarecrows too.

Meanwhile, the pictures here show some we’ve planted this summer using a windmill, tiny chickens (Everyone loves chickens!), little wooden chairs, driftwood benches, morel mushrooms, and more.

Maybe it’s time to let your inner child out…or create a miniature garden with your children. You just might get caught up in the magic like my friend, the skeptical one at the start of this post!

As with any container garden, these are designed to last as a true garden. Be mindful of the amount of light your garden will receive when you choose your plants. There are many  houseplants that work well together, including fittonia, Neanthe bella palms, and many ferns. Succulents work well in higher light and will need less water. Haworthias, aloes, crassulas and sedums are just a few of the many succulents you can use. Have fun!

Frank Stitt’s Chez Fonfon & Bottega Restaurant’s Planters…Done!

Each spring and fall I have the pleasure of designing and planting the containers at Frank Stitt’s
Chez Fonfon restaurant next to his acclaimed restaurant, Highlands Bar & Grill.

The aspidistra (cast iron plant) is thinned out each season...

The aspidistra (cast iron plant) is thinned out each season…

Pardis Stitt, Frank’s wife, likes Chez Fonfon to have a simple color scheme of white and green, and she and I both love different foliage colors, textures and leaf patterns, so it’s always fun to put together combinations of foliage with a few white flowers to  brighten things up. The planters are in quite a bit of shade, both from the building and from trees planted there, so for flowers it’s violas for winter.

Frank Stitt's Chez Fon Fon Restaurant PlanterThe emphasis is on foliage, though, and I’ve included curly parsley for it’s fresh green color, a small blue fescue grass, and a shade loving heuchera for this planting.  Holdovers from the summer are aspidistra, which I thin out each season,  and a tiny leaf green ivy. After planting, I added birch branches to add more height and winter interest. (Branches are an easy way to get color in planters during the holiday – red twig dogwood branches would also be pretty.) While it looks a bit top heavy with the tall aspidistra at first, the parsley and heuchera will add fullness to the composition as it grows in. I’m also trying the Cool Wave white trailing pansies here this year, hoping they get enough sun to bloom well.

These planters get more sun...

These planters get more sun…

Franks Stitt's Bottega Restaurant PlanterThis fall Pardis asked if I would also take a look at the planters at Bottega, their other wonderful restaurant.

They are smaller and placed in the courtyard.  I’ve included pictures of the two on either side of a wall fountain and shade garden. Because they’ll get more sun than the planters at Chez Fonfon, I’ve included one of my favorite ornamental (and edible!) kale, ‘Red Russian’, for height, a dark leaf heuchera on the shady side of the planter, trailing rosemary and more of the Cool Wave trailing pansies. I especially love the contrast of the birch against the lightness of the wall. It will be fun to watch all of these grow out, knowing their dedicated staff take great care to keep them looking their best.

 

Fall…More Arrangement Inspiration

Fall Bittersweet Arrangement in BasketAutumn inspires us! The past month we’ve been designing with thoughts of fall…a copper container, a beautiful basket, a heavy stone trough, and even something as simple as a wooden box made wonderful starting pieces for a few of them.

It’s funny how something can sit and not be noticed until a design brings it to life. Jamie did just that with this large basket. It and another like it have been in the greenhouse for awhile now. They’ve held bags of moss or been propped up waiting for someone to notice them. Well, her design certainly does it justice! It’s been the showstopper of the season with her use of bittersweet, giant star pod and Indian corn.

 

 

 

 

Fall ArrangementThis wooden box arrangement was done for a garden club – the customer brought in the antlers! This one was a fun change of pace. Those antlers didn’t want to stay put, and the box was a tad rickety…it reminds us that each day may bring different and interesting challenges!

 

Fall Gourd Arrangement

 

Soon the gourds will be gone for the season…but I’ll remember this arrangement as one of my favorites from this fall. I enjoy the lines of the gourds and the interplay of form here.

 

 

 

 

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October Saturday…Pumpkin Carving, Painting & Fun

At the beginning of the day...

At the beginning of the day…

Hard at work...

Hard at work…

Her bow matches her pumpkin!

Her bow matches her pumpkin!

Creating his masterpiece...

Creating his masterpiece…

They were all winners, but here are the official ones...

They were all winners, but here are the official ones…

The day started out chilly and clear, then turned into one of those beautiful fall days..it was  lovely to be outdoors enjoying a festive and fun atmosphere, with folks stopping by to get plants, spotting our pumpkin carving and painting tables, and coming back with their kids to join in the fun.

Older kids and some adults carved, while the smallest decorated their pumpkins with paint, glitter, feathers, and other fun things – such imaginations!  Soon word spread that not only was there a bouncy house for the little ones but Delmar Hill was grilling corn too…and more folks stopped by to oooh and aaah over the finished pumpkins lined up for judging.

The parking lot may sparkle from all the glitter for quite a  while…

 

 

We’ll be adding another post with pictures  taken by our friend, Steve Schnell. He took a lot, so sorting them out is going to take some time – stay tuned!

 

Fall…Arrangement Inspiration

imageWe look forward to fall with its autumn hues glowing on gorgeous pumpkins and gourds, bright stems of bittersweet and dark colors of pods and stems. Nature gives us all the inspiration we need for interesting and arresting arrangements.

Here are a few we’ve created recently

A simple wreath made of cotton bolls is embellished just enough with touches of ribbon and bittersweet…these wreaths also add charm to winter and holiday decor. Simply remove the bittersweet and change the ribbons if desired.

Bittersweet in Putti UrnBittersweet, arranged in a classic urn, gives us the quintessential look of fall. This piece is quite large, but the same effect can be achieved in a simple vase just as easily. I used dry foam with moss and added gourds to complete the arrangement.

Pumpkin/gourd/bittersweet in basketSwan gourds here are grouped in a basket lined with moss and angel vine. If you let your imagination go, you might see an aviary family under the branch of a tree. Or, you might just see a natural composition encircled and overhung by bittersweet. There’s no wrong way to interpret this!

Pumpkin/gourd/bittersweet centerpiece in bowl

 

A beautiful bowl is the starting point Jamie used for this grouping of gourds and pumpkins. Interesting shapes, varying colors, and the play of bittersweet wind throughout this balanced design.

Pumpkin/succulent arrangement

 

 

This rough textured oval container lends itself well to a casual grouping of miniature gourds and pumpkins interspersed with succulents, touches of bittersweet, and moss. Mixing live plants adds yet another element of color and form to many compositions.Gourd Arrangement

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Pumpkins, Gourds and More, Oh My!

Summer's harvest...

Summer’s harvest…

Just when you think summer’s heat won’t ever let up, along come a few days of cooler temperatures and clear blue skies to lift spirits and give all of us a second wind.

So many different pumpkins!

So many different pumpkins!

Summer’s final gift to us is the bounty of the late season garden – pumpkins! Oh, but not just any old pumpkins (Though we wouldn’t ever put down the good old fashioned jack-o-lantern!). The last few years the ubiquitous orange pumpkin has made some fancy friends, with names like Blue Hubbard, Cinderella, Long Island Cheese, Jharadale, Lumina, Lunch Ladies (Yes, really!) and Warty – just to name a few.
But, really the names don’t matter, because what’s in a name when they’re all so wonderfully different?

The entrance is looking so pretty!

The entrance is looking so pretty!

The entrance to the shop will be filled with the pick of the crop – picked just prior to delivery from a 20 acre farm in Tennessee. We’re excited about the fall harvest this year and hope you’re making plans for pretty fall displays at your homes too!

 

Making an appearance this year, among the pumpkins, fall flowers and cool season vegetables, are our original handmade Halloween friends from many years past. They include gremlins, ghosts, a big orange pumpkin, a black cat and a scary old witch with her cauldron. It’s fun having them back!  A big thank you to Jamie, Molly and Pinkie for their fantastic makeover work on all of them – they look better than ever!

Molly, Jamie and Pinkie with our witch!

Molly, Jamie and Pinkie with our witch!

Pinkie made our black cat pretty scary...

Pinkie made our black cat pretty scary…

Pumpkins and Halloween decorations are ready made backdrops for pictures, too. So make yourself at home, and take as many photos as you’d like of your little “pumpkins” with ours!

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Late Summer Plants Jump Start The Fall Garden

Marigolds & Coleus - FallI’m not quite sure I’ve been  living in the Southeast this summer…plentiful rain and decent temperatures – (Though it looks like the heat is finally returning.) this has been Alabama in August?!

But, even with a manageable summer, annuals planted back in April can still be looking worse for wear, no matter how well you tend your garden and containers. Potted plantings especially can get just plain root bound, and may need rejuvenating by late summer when school starts back up.

Pumpkin season is right around the corner...

Pumpkin season is right around the corner…

 

 

And, before you know it, pumpkins and gourds will be on display all over town – and they look beautiful with all the late summer plants you can begin putting in now and in the coming weeks!

But what to do? If you’ve been cutting back your annuals they may be just fine. If they are, that’s great. Keep tending them until pansy season, which generally begins when temperatures really begin to cool down and fall is definitely in the air – usually sometime in October.

photo (33)But, if your garden and beds are struggling…think about where you’d like to see marigolds, ornamental peppers, late season salvias, and, further down the road, lettuce, asters and cool season herbs – we’ll have transplants of parsley, thyme (Look for the lemon variegated thyme which looks beautiful with green or red lettuce and marigolds.) dill and cilantro too.
Just a few marigolds go a long way in planters or beds – each plant gets quite large – and they only need periodic dead heading to keep blooms coming.

What about mums, you ask? Well, we’ll have mums as well, and they are beautiful too. You do need to know though, as soon as all their buds open, there won’t be more flowers. You can enjoy them until they’re done blooming, but, no matter how many flowers you pinch off, they won’t make more! But for a weekend football party or get together, they can’t be beat as a traditional fall flower on a table or by your front door.

Soon everything will be available to create this planting arrangement...

Soon everything will be available to create this planting arrangement…

September is right around the corner, and that is the month all of these plants become more readily available. If you begin planning now, you can have a glorious fall planters and garden beds that are the envy of your neighborhood!

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Muhly Grass…Plant Now For Clouds Of Pink Blooms This Fall…

Muhly grass, muhlenbergia capillaris, is a native grass that is quiet for much of the year until mid-October-November, when 4′ panicles of pink blooms float in the air – if you can site it where it is backlit by the sun, it is a sight to see!

back lit in the sun, muhly grass shines come late summer/fall
back lit in the sun, muhly grass shines in October-November…

One of the best places to see this fantastic grass is at Railroad Park downtown. There they’ve utilized it in masses, and when the light is right, it’s a haze of pink everywhere you look – it’s absolutely stunning.

If you’d like to try some of this in your own landscape or containers, we have some in stock now – we warn you though, you might walk right by it in the nursery and think nothing of it. This is one grass you have to plant for its future beauty!

Requirements: Full sun to part shade, with moist, well drained soil – though it will tolerate drought and heat once established.

 

Perennial To-Dos For A Great Garden…

Perennial chrysanthemums benefit from being cut back once or twice or they tend to get lanky with fewer blooms.

Perennial chrysanthemums benefit from being cut back once or twice or they tend to get lanky with fewer blooms.

May and June are key months to keep an eye on your perennials as they’re coming up and (hopefully) growing like gangbusters.  A few tasks to do now involve some summer perennials and many of your late blooming fall plants. Of course, the  following tips are not something you have to do, but are only suggestions gleaned from my gardening experiences through the years. Remember, gardening is not one-size-fits-all!

Do you have summer phlox in your garden? Now is the perfect time to selectively thin your clumps, especially if they’re large. (If they are outgrowing their space or haven’t been blooming well, divide them this fall.)

To thin your summer phlox, simply reach into the clump and pull out the smallest stems. This effectively allows better air circulation – which in turn leads to a healthier clump less prone to mildew problems. At the same time, cut back by half some of the remaining stems. A longer bloom period will be the result…

Perennial sunflower - just about to be cut back in late May.

Perennial sunflower – just about to be cut back in late May.

Asters in front of Texas sage in late May after their first cut-back. Hedge shears do a great job quickly!

Asters in front of Texas sage in late May after their first cut-back. Hedge shears do a great job quickly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more blooms on your late blooming perennial sunflowers, salvias, asters, Joe pye weed and chrysanthemums,  now is the perfect time to get in the garden and cut them back – if you have large areas, use a hedge clipper and cut them back by half. (Hedge clippers – the old fashioned manual ones –  work best on asters and perennial mums.) When you cut a stem, it will respond by creating two stems, so you’ll have a fuller, shorter plant with more flowers later.

Perennial sunflower getting cut back. It will create two stems here - more blooms!

Perennial sunflower getting cut back. It will create two stems here – more blooms!

Now you don’t have to do this, (I’m not the garden police!) and, if you don’t, they’ll just be taller and bloom earlier in the fall, growing to their full height in your garden.
I do like cutting mine back now though. I also make a second cut-back on half the clumps about a month later. This effectively “staggers” the bloom time – those not cut back this second time will bloom first, and be a bit taller, and the plants that are cut back the second time will bloom a bit later.  More blooms, longer! It’s a win win!

Late blooming Salvia madrensis - forsythia sage...cut back at least 3 times during the growing season.

Late blooming Salvia madrensis – forsythia sage…cut back at least 3 times during the growing season. Shown here just beginning to bloom – this will turn into a mass of yellow salvia blooms…

Many southern gardeners say “Don’t cut late blooming perennials back after July 4th”.

Rule breaker that I am, I have cut perennial mums, asters and sunflowers back as late as mid-July and had no ill-effect. But I like extending my blooms well into fall – it’s one of my favorite times of the year!

Perennial sunflower - 'Marc's Apollo' beginning to bloom in mid-September...

Perennial sunflower – ‘Marc’s Apollo’ beginning to bloom in mid-September…

 

 

 

Above all, enjoy your garden – after all, that’s what you planted it for, right? Hopefully by following these tips you’ll be able to enjoy it even longer!

***One of my absolute favorite reference books on perennial gardening is The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by my friend, Tracy DiSabato-Aust. If you enjoy perennials and gardening, this is a must have!!!

 

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