In September those of us who work with annuals and perennials in the Preserve’s border gardens make the shift from maintenance to design work. Our goal is to have our border planning finished by the end of October, at the latest. Do you do the same? Are you reflecting on how your garden performed this July and August? Are you perusing seed and plant catalogs that are starting to show up in your mailbox? Do you have a list of plants that you would like to try out next year? Maybe you are visiting your local plant nursery to see what is still in stock. They may even be on sale!
As the weather begins to feel like fall, we look back on this current season as part of our planning for next year. We review photographs of the borders to see what plantings worked out well, and those that may not have. We also start purchasing material for next year before the desired seeds, bulbs, tubers, and plants are sold out.
Some seeds will be purchased now, before we are done with the design work because they may not be available in a month or two. At Johnny’s Selected Seeds, where we like to buy our Eustoma (Lisianthus), Matricaria (Feverfew) and zinnia seed cultivars, many of these plants have already sold out. If I anticipate adding new clumps of lilies to the border this fall for example, I will order those from plant nurseries now and incorporate them into the border plan later.
Sourcing seeds has always been a challenge which is why we have the October deadline, instead of December. This has been especially true during the pandemic. Like many industries, the seed business is experiencing challenges with production and staffing shortages. There is also an increase in seed demand because so many people took up gardening during the pandemic. We love to hear that more people are gardening, but it can put a strain on the supply. So, buy your seeds, bulbs, tubers, and plants as early as you can.
The photographs of the current year's plantings help us decide what to order for next year. I typically take photos three times during the season - after the plants are all in the ground, again in July, and again in August/September. Most gardens evolve over a season with early, mid, and late blooming plants. Photographs taken throughout the season help me to see how plants such as lilies, dahlias, gladiolus, and various perennials flower with the plants around them. Do the heights, textures, and colors complement each other? I make sure to capture the areas that are not performing the way I expected, but I take more pictures of areas that grew beautifully, so I do not forget those spots.
As you begin the changeover of your own gardens from summer to fall, I hope that you are inspired to think about next year’s design and start flipping through those seed catalogs!
Cassie Banning, Director of Farm & Gardens