Gardener’s Corner — Fall 2023

January 11, 2024

With Director of Horticulture Eric Kimbrel

With groundbreaking for our new greenhouse scheduled this fall, we are emptying out the hoop houses and planting everything we can. We’re adding the perennials and wildflowers to various beds throughout the garden. We’re planting Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) in the labyrinth. The red spruce are cold hardy and will stay in pots outside. Typically we would not plant this much in the fall because it’s our dry period.

Deer mating season is also approaching, and part of the male ritual is to rub their antlers against trees to mark their territory and leave information through their scent. To protect our trees, we wrap hardware cloth around their trunks, providing about three feet of metal netting that deters the interest of bucks.

As colder temperatures move in, we’re topdressing with manure any plants that are weak, small, or need help. We’re topdressing under hemlock trees that need it. Some of them have a disease called yellow patch, and they need mycorrhizal fungi to help their roost system combat that disease. We are treating these trees with a product called Roots Tree Saver, which contains beneficial bacteria and fungi. We add it to the soil and the root zone by drilling holes in to the ground and mixing it with the soil.

Recently we spotted a rare red Monotropa, or ghost pipe, in the garden. It’s a bit late to see a ghost pipe. Typically we see the white almost translucent variety underneath red oak trees in spring and summer. These plants don’t need sunlight as they have no chlorophyll and cannot perform photosynthesis. Instead they steal nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi, which colonize roots of photosynthetic plants in a symbiotic relationship. The parasitic ghost pipe uses these fungi to access nutrients from other plants.

Because it’s been rainy, some plants are already starting to show fall color and lose their leaves because they’re satisfied with the moisture level. They will move ahead into dormancy when they’re that happy with the conditions. Overall, leaf change seems to be on time, and we should see peak color the second week of October.