The fall season is upon us, and after a dry spring and summer, many are ready to throw in the trowel and call the 2021 gardening season a wrap. But I urge you to take a close look at the perennials in your landscape this fall. We tend to rely on trees and shrubs to give us the lovely orange, red, and yellow hues that delight us, but perennials can offer an autumnal beauty of their own. Take time to observe if any in your yard offer fall interest or do they offer perpetual problems? Here are a few problems that I commonly see in the fall landscape along with solutions:
Problem: Black-eyed Susans with black spots on leaves
This is known as Septoria Leaf Spot, and no matter the precautions and cleanup methods used, it always returns. The solution? Replace those cheery yellow flowers with newer cultivars that are resistant to that disease.
Solution: Rudbeckia ‘Sweet as Honey’ (shown above) is a brand new black-eyed Susan cultivar that is a great performer and is covered with blooms from July through September.It’s narrow foliage is disease resistant. Plant it with Sporobolus heterolepis ‘Golden Prairie’ for a lovely fall display.
Problem: Asters with bare legs
This embarrassing problem is prevalent with many older, taller varieties of Asters. You can camouflage those bare stems by planting shorter perennials in front of them, but there are better Asters that hold their leaves and have beautiful blossoms in September and October.
Solution: Aster macrophyllus ‘Twilight’ (shown above) is my pick for one of those better Asters. The showy purplish-blue flowers attract bees and butterflies, and it serves as host and nectar plant.
Problem: One-season Sedum
We wait all season watching the sedum grow up and finally begin to flower in early fall. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a sedum that shows color earlier?
Solution: Sedum ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (shown above). I have fallen in love with this sedum, with it’s mauve stems and hints of pink through the summer months. Raspberry-colored flowers appear in early fall and the leaves change to shades of orange and red. What more could you want?
Problem: Lack of good fall foliage color
I’m always on the lookout for perennials that offer interest in more than one season - especially foliage with fall color.
Solution: Penstemon ‘Pocahontas’ (shown above) is one such plant and checks several boxes on the list. It’s quite the sight to behold when in bloom, and it’s burgundy foliage remains from spring into fall.
Problem: Lack of Fall Flowers for Pollinators
Solution: In addition to the perennials mentioned above, there is one more to add to the fall garden, and that is Vernonia also known as Ironweed. V. ‘Southern Cross’ (shown above) is one that has caught my attention the last couple years. The plant grows 3’ tall and wide in full sun. The fine, narrow foliage stays fresh all summer and purple flower buds look like little jewels before opening to the purple blossoms that are loved by butterflies. Ornamental grasses are a great companion to this must-have perennial.
There’s much to enjoy in the fall landscape, so maximize yours with better, smarter perennial selections.
It's time to harvest your basil! Hopefully you have been snipping some all summer, but now it's time to get serious. Basil is pretty touchy when it comes to cold temperatures which can dip down into the 40's on September nights.
Here are a few tips:
- Early morning is the best time to harvest for the best flavor.
- Cut back up to half of the plant.
- Keep cuttings in a glass of water if you can't get to them right away.
- There are several ways to preserve basil. One is to freeze it with olive oil in an ice cube tray.
We recently had the two women from Hickory Grove Farm here at Bella Botanica at our Afternoon Herbal Tea event. Marge Koenecke and Beth Malliet shared the following recipe for making pesto with basil and parsley. Following their demonstration, they used the pesto to make Pesto Pizza Rounds which are a super quick hors d'euvre to make. So yummy! Enjoy!
¼ c. pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, or pecans toasted at 350 degrees for 8-10 min
2 cloves garlic
1 c. fresh spinach, packed
1 c. fresh basil, packed
½ c. fresh parsley, packed
½ tsp. salt
½ c. good quality olive oil
¾ c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
In food processor, puree nuts, garlic, spinach, basil, parsley, and salt. Add olive oil and blend Add parmesan cheese. Pulse briefly. Do not overblend.
PESTO PIZZA ROUNDS
2 baguettes, sliced ½” thick
½ c. pizza sauce
½ c. parmesan cheese
Lay slices of bread on cookie sheet. Spread a little pizza sauce and a dollop of pesto on each slice of bread. Top with a sprinkle of the remaining ½ c. cheese. Place under broiler about 3 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and bread is toasted. Serve hot or at room temperature.
What's your favorite basil recipe, and how do you preserve basil?
Enlightenment dawned during a recent thrifting trip to Goodwill. I love the hunt for a forgotten treasure, but as I walked down aisle after aisle, I was overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of stuff that we accumulate as a society. So many knickknacks, choochkies, dishes, clothes, and the list goes on. I know that donations like these can help many people who don't have much, but it has made me stop and think.
I had to ask myself this question: How am I, as a consumer, contributing to this problem of too much stuff. Admittedly, I have over-consumed to a certain degree. There are closets and a basement to prove it. But why? Why do I have so much stuff? Why do I buy things in the first place? Are these things essential? Do they add value to my life? Do they bring me joy after the first day or two?
I've started listening to a podcast called 'The Minimalists' by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I've got to say that I'm hooked! Here are two quotes by Joshua which inspire me:
“Minimalism is a tool we use to live a meaningful life. There are no rules. Rather, minimalism is simply about stripping away the unnecessary things in your life so you can focus on what’s important”.
The other is this: "Addition by subtraction". Simplifying our stuff can be the first step to simplifying our lives. And by doing so, we add more meaning to them. It's the 'less is more' concept. A simple lifestyle offers us more time, more creativity, more freedom, more contentment. . .
This art of simple living appeals to me, but where to start? I decided to begin with something tangible - something I could see tangible results in a short period of time - simplifying a room in my house.
I've been wanting to change the paint color of the walls in the office for awhile now. With starting a new business and becoming empty nesters, we don't use the room in the same way as we once did. So it's time for a redo, and I want to do it with a minimalist mindset. What better to listen to than The Cozy Minimalist by Myquillyn Smith.
Friends, this book is AMAZING! Her method of redecorating a room goes something like this:
1. Determine the purpose of the room.
2. Start a Pinterest board of inspiration and pin with passion! How fun is that?!
3. Quiet the room. This means take everything out of the room except large pieces of furniture and let the room speak.
This is the point where my husband thinks I'm off my rocker as he finds me sitting in an empty room - just sitting and listening to the room 'speak'. But it works! Having everything off the walls, no rugs, no chairs, no 'stuff', allows you to imagine all the possibilities.
Then the order goes something like this: arrange the furniture different ways until your find the best way; add in necessary seating and surfaces; then on to rugs, drapes, and lighting. I can't give the rest away, because you should read the book, too! But, I will tell you that changing the paint color on the walls is one of the last things you do, as is adding in all the decor and meaningful mementos that personalize the room. I'm still in the middle of this project, but I'm determined to follow her recommended steps, and to only put those things back into this room that are essential or that bring me joy.
In her book. Myquillyn asks this question: Are you a stuff manager or a home curator? A stuff manager is one who does this: "look through stuff, put stuff away, organize stuff, feel guilty because I haven't organized other stuff. . . pile up stuff, pack away stuff, and move around stuff." A home curator is one who makes careful decisions about what is brought into her home, and adds style with less stuff. Ouch! I want to be a home curator, but often I find myself a stuff manager. How about you?
This whole process has inspired me to put more thought into my purchases, not only as a home owner, but as a shoppe owner. I definitely don't want to contribute to this problem of consumerism and overspending, so I'm carefully and thoughtfully curating goods in my shoppe that will help YOU become a home curator. And support other small businesses in the process - bonus!
I'll leave you with two practical decorating tips from the cozy minimalist herself that have had the most impact on me as I decorate for the seasons:
As a home curator, purchase less seasonal store-bought decorations, and use more of what nature offers. For example, invest in a lovely vase that can be left out year-round (aka attractive even when empty), and add a faux botanical stem or foraged branches. Beautiful and simple.
As a home curator, consider the five senses as you decorate for fall:
1. Smell: Candles! What are the fragrances of fall? Pumpkin, apple, spices . . .
2. Sight: Autumnal hues can be reflected in pillows, in pottery, and a simple arrangement of mini pumpkins, pinecones, and bittersweet in a wooden bowl; a planted fall container on the front porch accompanied with a fall wreath on the door. . .
3. Touch: It's all about cozy and about texture. Soft blankets in rattan baskets, holding a book in your hand as you read, touching pen and paper as you handwrite a note to a friend, or enjoying the feel of your favorite mug in your hand. . .
4. Sound: Maybe it's a crackling fire, geese migrating, or certain songs. I love classical music in the fall and am working on a Spotify play list for fall. What would your fall playlist sound like?
5. Taste: This is a fun category that includes pumpkin desserts, fall-flavored coffee, caramel apples, soups, harvested vegetables, preserved fruits. . .
Simple living is made up of simple pleasures. For me, it's about connecting with nature, making memories, spending time with those we love, and showing kindness to everyone. It's putting the focus on people, not on things. It's about making thoughtful, intentional decisions when it comes to stuff. And it's about being content with what we have. To me, that's the art of simple. What does the art of simple look like to you?
Below, you'll find a few resources that I highly recommend if a cozy minimalist lifestyle appeals to you, along with an easy way to fill your home with all the fall smells. Blessings as you transition from one season to another, and may you find joy and contentment in the simple things life offers.
The Cozy Minimalist by Myquillyn Smith
Love People, Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
The Minimalists podcast
Follow @thenester on Instagram
AN EASY SIMMERING POTPOURI FOR FALL
In a saucepan or slow cooker, combine the following:
1/2 orange (sliced), 4-6 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 tsp. whole cloves. Simmer in water. Check frequently and add water if necessary.
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM GOD'S WORD:
... I say it is better to be content with what little you have. Otherwise, you will always be struggling for more, and that is like chasing the wind.
I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.
Sunflowers and dragonflies. That's August.
Growing up, August days were filled with the essence of summer. My childhood was spent roaming the untamed woods and fields on my parents' property with my four siblings. There were August gatherings of family and friends to celebrate birthdays, meadows in which to sit among wildflowers and watch dragonflies hover and dart, and always a quiet spot to get lost in a good book.
Looking back, those days were a gift, and I'm so grateful for a childhood that held love, contentment, and joy. Today, now in my 52nd August, I have to admit that lately, joy has been allusive - a bit like the dragonflies. There has been a deep sadness that fills me due to a loss of relationships, and there is some grieving that goes along with that. Grief has replaced joy, or at least has stifled it. I could easily allow that sadness to dwell inside me indefinitely. But after a month of intentional reflection and collecting the quiet, I've come to realize that I cannot let outside circumstances consume me. I cannot let them control my life. I have a choice! I can let the sadness pull me into depression, or I can choose to fill that void with something uplifting.
So I choose joy. Just saying those words is empowering, like taking the first step forward. Joy. It's different from happiness which is based on circumstances - like a rollercoaster of emotion. But I can be joy-filled despite circumstances. Joy comes from a spring deep within, drawing life from a well of gratitude and contentment. Author Ann Voskamp writes, "Being joyful isn't what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful." In her book, One Thousand Gifts, she shares a profound connection between gratitude and joy. Are you ready for it? The Greek word for joy is chara and the Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharisteo - euCHARisteo. It's right there! Joy (chara) is literally found in the word thanksgiving (euCHARisteo)! I read those words for the first time several years ago, and I still get goosebumps when I read them.
There's one more missing piece to the joy puzzle, at least for me, and it's another Greek word - charis. It means grace. Grace that comes from a God who loves unconditionally, and who is the source of a deep, holy joy. Charis - eucharisteo - chara. Grace, thanksgiving, and joy. I want that again. I NEED that again. So I choose to be joyful and it starts right now - today - at this moment. And it will be how I start every day, no matter what is happening in the world, in our country, in my family, or in my personal life. Those things are beyond my control. However, I can control one thing, and that is my response.
Did you know that sunflowers follow the sun from east to west as young buds? Then, when fully mature, their flowers face east to greet the sun every morning. And did you know that dragonflies begin life in dark water before rising up to the light? When sunlight hits their colorless bodies, they become beautiful, colorful, and iridescent - transformed by the sun. They continue their homage and begin each day drying their wings in the warmth of the sun. Like sunflowers and dragonflies, I invite you to join me and begin each day this month with gratitude. Let's be thankful for at least one small thing, because that one small thing will lead to a little bit of joy. Speak it or write it - it doesn't matter. What matters is acknowledging it. Let's mark the days of August by listing more and more small things, so August can become filled with joyful moments. Each day a step forward. Each day a step towards transformation and a joy-filled life.
I'll leave you with this thought:
"If you let something steal your thanksgiving, you let something steal your joy, and if you let something steal your joy, you let something steal your strength." - Ann Voskamp
and this encouraging scripture:
"Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times." - Romans 12:12 (NCV)
Two books I recommend:
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and the devotional companion
The book of Philippians which is known as the Letter of Joy
At the top of today's gratitude list: sunflowers and dragonflies. What's on yours?
It amazes me how plants can be so tender and vulnerable yet so powerful. They depend on us for nurturing and in return they nurture us. We plant, cultivate, and water. In return, flowers, vegetables, herbs, trees, shrubs - all nurture us in some way, either physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Lately I've been thinking about filling my life with more joy which has led me to lemons. Yes, lemons and all things lemony like lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, and lemongrass. It shouldn't surprise me, I guess, that my search for things that bring joy would lead me to lemons. Even a lemony-hue can be cheery. Yellow daisies, Coreopsis, marigolds, sunflowers can brighten up a landscape or a bouquet. But lemons? The same fruit that can make us pucker, has a fragrance that can be uplifting! It seems like such a contradiction held in one plant.
As I dig deeper, I discover that lemons have a strong connection with mental health. The vitamin C in citrus have been found to lower levels of stress. It helps restore our adrenal glands when we are under too much stress. The smell of lemons can calm our nervous systems, help with anxiety and depression, and give us a boost of energy. Aromatherapy is definitely a super power of plants!
Here are a few ways to add lemon's uplifting essence into your day:
- Add lemon slices to your water. To take it to the next level, combine 5 lemon slices, 5 crushed lemongrass stalks, 1/2 c. fresh lemon basil leaves, and 1/2 c. fresh orange mint leaves in a carafe of water. Let it steep in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Strain and enjoy.
- Diffuse lemon essential oil to improve your mood. It energizes and invigorates. The essential oil is extracted from fresh lemon peel, so just a few drops will do. Read more about it's benefits here.
- Add fresh lemon balm and lemon verbena leaves into salads, especially fruit salads. This Roasted Fruit Salad looks especially delicious.
- Make lemon herb tea with dried lemon balm, lemon thyme, and lemon verbena. Click here for several recipes.
For creative ways to use lemon herbs in place of lemons, check out this site.
No matter how you slice it, lemons and all the lemon herbs offer something powerful that we need. So plant them in your garden or in a pot, tend to them, and nurture them and they will nurture you in return. That gift of reciprocity itself is a joy and one that keeps on giving.
It is often in August that the earth’s flowers are singing their loudest. Cosmos, zinnias, self-seeding annuals and native perennials have taken this long to reach their full potential and offer their nectar as a sweet treat to the flocks of bees and butterflies that are drawn to them.
The meadow is like that. Flowers and grasses intermingle in an open expanse and August finds it quiet, calming, but buzzing with activity. What if we could experience the joy of meadows close to home? What if we each planted a mini meadow - a little patch of colorful flowers in our yards?
A mini meadow does not require much: a patch of earth and a handful of annual and perennial seeds. It does not have to be, and should not be, manicured, but rather a loose, informal style as found in nature. A mini meadow could be as small as a container on your deck, or as large as your entire backyard. It is not time-consuming because once established, they require little maintenance.
MINI MEADOW BASICS
WHAT TO DO NOW
Late summer is not the time to plant except for perennial transplants. However, it is the time to plan and prep for next year’s mini meadow.
PLANTS TO CONSIDER
Annuals: Bachelor Buttons, Borage, Calendula, California poppies, Cosmos, Feverfew, Sunflowers, Zinnias
Perennials: Black-eyed Susans, Butterfly weed, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, New England Asters, Liatris, Vernonia
Grasses: Prairie Dropseed, Little Bluestem, Switchgrass
The best part of mini meadows is what they teach us: to loosen our grip of order and control in the landscape, to embrace nature’s free spirit of intermingling plants, and to do our part on our own bit of earth. They also offer this:
In the meadow I found my place, In serenity and silence of grace
My spirit calm, I linger in the breeze Under the rays of sun, I found peace. - Alexis Kho
Mini Meadows by Mike Lizotte is the best book out there on the subject. His detailed lists and the beautiful photography by Rob Cardillo will inspire you to create your own mini meadow.
Tracy Hankwitz is a Horticulture Adjunct at Gateway Technical College and owns Bella Botanica, LLC in an old church located at 1787 Walworth Street, Springfield, WI. You can learn more at www.bellabotanicaboutique.com.
Hi, I'm Tracy - horticulturist, beauty-seeker, Word-lover, and blessed to be the owner of Bella Botanica. I also love to write about plants, gardening, and about my faith journey. Thanks for reading!