The "grands" — Luca, Cecilia and Flora — pause on a fall garden walk. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

Kachemak Gardener: Take a tour of your garden

A visit from the Kachemak Gardener’s ‘grands’ prompts a tour of the garden.

There is such a lovely rhythm to writing a garden column; seldom do I wonder what to write about. The “grands” have given me a theme for this column and an opportunity to encourage you to take a tour of your garden.

Yes, it was a drizzly day. They were here for their Sunday morning visit and just wanted to eat and get cozy on the couches, but I asked them to put their shoes back on and take a walk in the garden with me. Flora, the youngest, hunts for the Fairy Box and climbs the larch, appreciating her vantage point. The plants may be looking a bit bedraggled, but they are still lovely. This has been a long, gentle fall. I wanted the grands (and you) to understand there is still much to be appreciated in October.

We always have a nasty cold spell early in the fall; we think all is over and then it gets relatively warm again. Take note of the plants that survived that cold and are still putting on a show. Think about planting more of them. There is your fall color. There’s no need to try this and that, just use what you have and more of it. I’m hoping that the foxgloves survive the winter. That’s what I have blooming at the moment, along with dianthus “Arctic Fire.” It may not seem like much, but they do offer color. The rest of the perennials are very nice mounds of green, although some of them are giving up for the season. They gave it a good go and deserve a rest.

This is also an excellent time to take a good look around. I have mentioned that the ornamental crab that has been ugly for 20 years is on the way out — what a relief. John is waiting for a hard freeze so he doesn’t damage much when he cuts it down, piece by piece.

Nick Varney’s essay on his dogs in the Oct. 21 Homer News got me thinking about the grands’ 3-year old chocolate lab, Boris. Dear Boris is banished from this garden all summer long. He rampages through, especially the vegetable garden, where he manages to pee on every single edible out there. So, instead of my fighting the urge to choke him, he stays home. And we miss him. So, the fence around the vegetable plot needs to be improved. It has always been more for definition than anything else, and in that sense, it has been perfect. But to thwart Boris, it is useless. Fall is the perfect time to get this fence situation under control. If we wait for spring, so much will be happening and it will be too easy to say “no” to Boris’s presence. If you have a similar situation, give this some thought now.

The same mindset goes for a greenhouse. If this is something that you covet and truly understand that they are a significant amount of work, get one in now so that it is ready to go come spring.

Another looming chore is pruning the shrubs and trees. I will wait until they are truly dormant, but for now I am determined to cut back the mock orange in the East Garden. It is blocking the view to the bird feeder, and only one chair fits on the little deck when there used to be two. I want company with my tea besides the birds. Room needs to be made to accommodate that chair.

I have said this at least a million times — everything here is planted too close and now the whole shebang is crowded. Never did I think this would be possible. The 20 years spent at elevation 1,466 feet skewed my perception of what plants are capable of. Here in the Far North, the light alone encourages stupendous growth, so be it. I’m grateful and will appreciate the verdant landscape.

This afternoon I cleaned up the garlic (what there is of it) and shallots (which had a great year, go figure) and have them in paper bags in the kitchen where they keep quite successfully and are within easy reach. The onions are a major disappointment. They just did not have enough time to mature, so they are still growing on the basement floor. Poor things. There will be onion soup here on a regular rotation until they are used up.

I was given a bag of Homer apples and the first thought is a pie, but these apples are, as usual, small, and the thought of prepping them did not appeal. So they became a lovely pink, quite delicious applesauce. The apples on our own tree are still there and the hope is that they will achieve some taste other than sour the longer they stick it out. They are getting there, slowly, and they will be honored with a pie.

As for the house plants, the epiphyte (holiday cactus) are in bud, both of them, and they hold the promise of loveliness, which is a good thing because I would rather not look at them when they are not in bloom, but here they go. They will start blooming Halloween and continue through Thanksgiving. Loaded with large, colorful blooms, they bring a touch of joy to our interior landscapes.They are often called Christmas cactus, but mine don’t seem to bloom on that cue.

If yours are reluctant to bloom, give them a different location, keep moving them until they set buds. Then you’ll know they have found their happy spot, and leave them there forever.

The African violets are all more or less happy. I thought this would be the fall that I repotted them but I’m weaseling out. They need repotting quite often, to the point where I feel like I’m forever addressing this need. I have even considered thinning them out. There are 30 of them on the window sills and I’m thinking enough is enough. But I love them, sort of like a pet.

If your house plants are looking like they need a freshening, get the job done now. They will have all winter to recuperate and bring you joy in the spring.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener and has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.

Dropmore honey suckle trellised on the west wall and making the most of it. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

Dropmore honey suckle trellised on the west wall and making the most of it. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

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