September Garden Tips
Before the fall planting and winter-readying begins in earnest, hit the fall plant sales at the local nurseries! Several specialty nurseries in the County have great fall sales – some lasting a month or longer. Check around – websites are a good way to get information quickly – and shop the sales early for best selection. Caution: many of the sale plants are pot-bound and will need extra care when planting. Some can be divided before planting, doubling your savings. Anything that is not planted right away needs to be kept well-watered.
Shop for plants that have good fall color. Fall display is often neglected when planning gardens. Some plants that give you great September and October color are Autumn Sedum, Ceratostigma, Viburnum, Crape Myrtle (especially certain cultivars – ask the nursery!), Cotoneaster, Cornus stolonifera, Cotinus, Berberis, Crab Apples, Persimmons and many other. Many ornamental grasses also generally continue to look their best through the fall.
Fall is the right time for planting California natives, too. Perhaps Arctostaphylos, Ceanothus and Rhamnus for structure, and Ribes Sanguineum, native Salvia, Epilobium, Penstemon and Eriogonum for color.
In the mild September weather tour local gardens such as Quarryhill or Luther Burbank Gardens to get an idea of what looks great in the fall. With all of the lovely trees at these gardens, you may be itching to plant some of your own during the cool fall weather. For fall color, how about smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria), red maple (Acer rubrum) or Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis)?
Bulbs will begin appearing in nurseries and garden centers. It is generally easier to wait until after the first rains to plant them, but buy them ahead of time so that you are prepared.
Continue to build your checklist of fall chores – plants that need to be moved or divided, for example, will appreciate your waiting for shorter days and cooler, moister weather. With a few exceptions, fall blooming plants should be divided in the spring, spring blooming ones should be divided just after they bloom, and summer bloomers should be divided in early fall. Share your divisions with friends!
September is a time that we can still live in our gardens in Sonoma County. Plan a harvest meal under the trellis or an afternoon barbecue. Find a place where turning foliage or ornamental grass flowers are back-lit by the sun and enjoy the spectacle!