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Autumn Smells, Chores & Pleasures

Autumn has a special fragrance. It’s the mold and dust and beginning decay of all the green and gold and soft and growing and dying in the air and the soil. I’m crazy about the smell. I am also allergic to dust and mold, so I have to keep from going into a leafy bower and just taking a deep breath. But being stuffed up afterwards is a small price to pay, really.

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Autumn leaves by Paree licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’m really quite happy that this fall is starting early for our part of the world. It is my favorite season, and I say, “Get it on!” There is so much more that we can do in the garden with cooler days to work. I get so tired after about 2 hrs of work outside in the summer time. I can go all day long in the fall.

This year the job is to move some perennials that are too large for their present location. Sometimes this means not only digging them, but dividing them too. For example, the butterfly bush is huge, and we will try to split it by chopping at the roots.

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butterfly bush photo by Tim Walker licensed under CC BY 2.0

The dutch iris have expanded a little too prolifically too. They’ll need a lot of dividing. And we can’t see over the peonies and lilacs.

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Peony photo by liz west licensed under CC BY 2.0

Since our neighbor has taken down trees that provided us a shady area next to them, this will give us an opportunity to move some sun loving plants into this formerly shady spot to fill areas where ferns and hellebores are now struggling with the amount of sun they are getting.

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Dutch iris photo by Gary Lerude licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

We have already dug up one clump of bearded iris because they did not flower this year, having been placed too near an amur maple tree that expanded to shade the clump too much. We cleaned the clump, took out liriope that threaded itself into the iris roots and divided the rhizomes. We put out 13 new plants from it and have 9 more to find space for. We have also found a baby boxwood, rhododendron and holly that have to be moved from where they have sprung up.

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Bearded iris photo by Sheila Sund licensed under CC BY 2.0

We have another clump of these iris to similarly dig and divide. We have to call our daughter and ask her permission to come plant iris at her place. We have some Joe Pye weed that is similarly too shaded where it is growing and would appreciate being moved to a sunnier location. And then there are the autumn crocus and colchinum that will be arriving by mail order soon that will need to be planted and babied.

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Autumn crocus (photo by Mike Sutton) will bloom even if you don’t plant them!

What do you have to do before winter arrives? Do you look forward to fall gardening? What do you put to bed?

DH ties up our Siberian iris like little corn stacks — it makes our place look more farm-like. I am charmed by the simplicity of the act and the final effect.

5 Low Maintenance Trees and Shrubs for your Garden

Not just our ancient gardener, but we all are looking for high value from plants that are low maintenance. We have published lists of great plants and care instructions for pruning and winterizing on other posts. But today we concentrate on five trees and shrubs that require absolutely no care beyond planting and watering to give them a head start. Our guest author today is Matt Day from They have a host of interesting plant advice and gardening tips articles on their blog. For further information on garden maintenance services, please contact them. Matt and his company have some beautiful suggestions for our gardens.

Having a low maintenance garden takes careful planning and so we have tried to make that a little easier by providing a good mix of trees and shrubs that require little or no maintenance. We have included as wide a range as possible to cover a variety of colors and seasons. For instance, the Japanese Maple provides a wide range of variants in both color and size. The two evergreen shrubs in the list both provide a different appearance and color to each other and winter coverage with a fragrant summer flowering shrub to attract insects. And finally a spring flowering tree with a more unusual weeping form.

 Japanese maple (Acer Palmatum)

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Japanese maple photo by jacinta lluch valero licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are many different types of Japanese maple tree. Some only grow to heights of a maximum 5 ft (1.5m) and others will grow much taller. All Japanese Maples are slow growing and require little maintenance. They can be found in many different colors to include deep reds to orange, and lime green to dark green. An example of one of the smaller variants is the Garnet Japanese maple from the dissectum group. This has deep red leaves and only grows to about 5 ft (1.5m). Japanese Maples are hardy and pruning, if required, should be carried out late winter to early spring. Pruning is not essential, but removing dead wood, or problem sections is worth doing to maintain health.

 Juniper ‘Old Gold’

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Juniper Old Gold photo by Leonora Enking licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is a very hardy, wide spreading juniper shrub which will provide dense cover. It is ideal if you are looking for something which will not grow very tall. It is aromatic and will enhance the look of your garden and add interest throughout the winter months when everything will look very bare. It has a bright moss green color. It should be planted in full sun to gain the best color shades. Its growth speed is slow and it is frost resistant and drought resistant so little care is required.

Picea pungens Globosa

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Photo of picea pungen globosa by Mark Bolin licensed under CC BY 2.0

This evergreen has more unusual coloring than many common garden shrubs. It could be used to add contrast to an area of your garden of solid color. It is often used in rockeries due to the fact it is slow growing and its maximum size is only around  3 ft (1m) tall and wide. This attractive shrub is an evergreen and will therefore contribute color to your garden all year round, even throughout winter. It is very low maintenance as it does not require pruning and is extremely hardy.


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Purpleness photo by tdlucas5000 licensed under CC BY 2.0

In my opinion this is a perfect choice for any garden. This is one of my favorite shrubs. It has beautiful fragrant flowers in summer. It will attract the bees and butterflies so it is great for helping to establish an insect friendly garden. It does not grow very large, so maintenance is easy. Without maintenance, this shrub will still flower and flourish and just leaving it to do its own thing is not a problem. However maintenance is advised as it is an easy shrub to prune and this will help it flourish. It is a good idea to trim it mid spring. This can prevent it from growing too high. It will also keep the buddleia in good health and encourage the best flower growth. It can grow to 6 or 9 ft (2 or 3 m) tall. It is also available in various colors to include pink and purple shades and white

Prunus Kiku-shidare-zakura – Cheals Weeping Cherry Trees

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Weeping cherry photo by Catherine licensed under CC BY 2.0

This small tree grows pink blossoms in April/May. It is an ideal choice to add spring color to your garden when your other flowers are not yet in full bloom. It is a great alternative to a standard cherry tree, and many will find its weeping form to be a more unusual and beautiful choice. As this is a small tree, it should be easy to maintain yourself with minimum effort required.

Do you have other suggestions for low maintenance bushes and trees for a home landscape?


One Hot Summer Day, Then Bam! Fall

It soared into the 90’s last week with no rain. Quite characteristic of most of our summers, but not for THIS summer.

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Canna lily by the vegetable garden

This summer has been mild. Beautiful, even. Almost too cool to eat dinner on the patio!

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Will the tomatoes continue to ripen at their crazy pace?

The mosquitoes didn’t populate our dinner time until last week. I usually put out mosquito repellant candles, but have not had to until last week. Everything was wonderful. Then we got one week of our normal summer.

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Dahlias everywhere

Now, it is already smelling like fall! But it has been great for gardening.

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I still sweat while working, but I have been able to move into the shade and cool down.

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Black eyed susan is the Maryland state flower

I have been able to dig and divide and transplant because of the moderate rain fall to keep everything hydrated: bearded iris, dutch iris, gladiolas, asters, shasta daisies, lamb’s ears, boxwood, rhododendron, hostas, grasses of all sorts, canna lilies, and Siberian iris.

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I threw a box of dahlia tubers from Sam’s Club out in the garden this spring

I have been able to dig and weed and knock the dirt off, and get rid of things I thought might be good plants but even in this cool summer have been thugs: goose neck loose strife, for example.

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We hope this bad boy ripens before the vine dies

As usual, not enough time. Just refining and redefining. Nothing major, but all beautiful.

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One honkin’ dahlia

Have you too enjoyed a mild summer? Have you had fun in your garden this summer?

An Ancient Gardener Aging in Place

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