Mum’s NOT the Word!

Ann McCulloh, contributing editor

Ahhh autumn! The Equinox is past. Days shorten, nights cool. I imagine most of us infatuated with gardens, ours and others, experience this season with the same poignant mix of celebration, regret and  relief.  Although we are feeling the signals to relinquish, retreat, slow down, there’s such renewed energy in the air too! So many cool-loving annuals like nasturtiums, alyssum,

photo-1-alyssumlettuce, broccoli all leap up, refreshed and re-sprouting after the baking heat of summer. Fall-bearing raspberries

photo-2-red-raspberry are bending under the weight of their fruit. Grapes, nuts, apples swell to ripeness. Tomatoes, squash, eggplants are producing on and on, holding out hopes for the Thanksgiving table.

I’ve never been good at letting go of summer, but the humming bees collecting nectar from winter savory and borage blossoms inspire me to fill my own cupboard for the long cold season.  I’m cutting tarragon, basil, Oregano and thyme to dry. Freezing some tomatoes, and putting winter squash on top of the fridge to cure in the warm air up there. I’m making cuttings of my favorite coleus to winter over, and getting my houseplants ready for their indoor sojourn.

I have to admit that I’m just not very fond of the traditional fall garden décor of pumpkins, gourds, kale and ubiquitous chrysanthemums. Instead, my affection strengthens year after year for the hardy flowers that, just like me, are perennially late to the party.  Just a sampling of what’s coming into bloom now, to cheer the cusp of the season: Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida),


hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium), Turtlehead (Chelone glabra),


Toadlily (Trycyrtis hirta), Closed Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii),

photo-5-gentianMonkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii),

photo-6-monkshoodGoldenrod (Solidago spp.),  October Daphne (Sedum sieboldii), Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans), Yellow waxbells (Kirengeshoma palmata), New England asters (Aster noviae-angliae),


and even some long-blooming roses, like Rosa ‘Iceberg’. These are the guests at my fall fete. It’s a full house! I’m very much in a festival mood, even though thoughts of the after-party cleanup are looming. Not in the mood for stiff, funereal mums!

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