Fall is the time to consider change in the garden

Autumn is filled with change. The garden changes from new life and production to a quiet shutting down. Leaves begin falling, the summer flowers fade; but if you look closely, life emerges with the fall flowers and the beauty of the changing leaves.

Now is the time to take advantage of that change. It is time to cut back and clean up the bounty of summer and create the beauty that will last through winter. A wonderful opportunity exists to observe the elegance of evergreen leaves and needles. The dark evergreen tree that has been in the background all summer, nearly unnoticeable, leaps forward and becomes the centerpiece for a bouquet of foliage. A lone flower that would have remained masked by the abundance of summer shines as if in a spotlight.

One of the best “tools” of gardening is the time spent just looking critically at the picture you have created. What needs changing?

A difficult thing in creating a garden of beauty is maintaining that beauty year-round. Take some time to wander through your neighborhood, parks or public plantings, observing the plants that work well together. Four places that can get creative juices flowing are the Bellevue Botanical Garden, Kubota Garden, The Center for Urban Horticulture and the Washington Park Arboretum.

Fall is a great time of year to transplant in our area. Perhaps some of the plants in your garden that look out of place would work in other areas, creating a more pleasing picture. Most gardeners move plants many times, adjusting to changing sun and shade patterns, better soil conditions or watering concerns. Is there anything in yours that could use improvement or replacement?

One of the hardest things for gardeners to do is recognize that some plants just don’t belong in our gardens, and the longer they have been there, the harder it is to correct the problem. Huge, overgrown bushes that need severe pruning or removal, trees that have grown too tall or are diseased, and plant “thugs” that have grown too aggressively need to be taken out, but we tarry too long in many cases. Like the commercial says, “Just do it.”

This is also the time to consider your tools. They might need sharpening or tightening — great jobs for rainy afternoons. Before freezing occurs, be sure to remove all hoses from their faucets and empty the water out of them as well as draining all sprinkler systems. If there is any chance of freezing later, covering the faucets with pre-formed covers or even old rags covered with plastic will save resulting plumbing bills.

Do you need new hedge clippers, a new rake, hose or hand trowel? Many gardening items are on sale when the season ends, and you can find some great bargains. You can hint to those who consider holiday presents early, too.

Year-end sales apply to plants, too, and they have plenty of time to develop good roots before freezing weather begins. Just be sure to check that the plants are not overly root-bound in their pots. Add plenty of compost to the planting holes and be sure to water new or transplanted plants well and to continue watering until winter rains start.

Now is the time to really appreciate the change of season. It is a time to contemplate what needs to be done, a time to make changes that will bring beauty in the new year, and a time to appreciate the subtleties of a fall flower or the sparkle of a suddenly red leaf: A time for change.

Linda Urbaniak’s column will return in March. She can be reached at

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