As the summer comes to a close for fall, we prepare for winter by helping the gardens go into a hibernation of their own, tucked into their beds and ready for a long, dormant season.
Throughout the year, SHR staff prepare for the next generation of native plants to adorn the landscape. After bearing summertime fruit, plenty of seeds are ready for harvest throughout the gardens. Our gardeners are busy collecting seeds from our native plant collection, storing the genetic programming for the coming years. Seeds are stored in the Chestnut Lodge, each labeled to identify species, date and location they were collected. This information will then be added to our accession records once these seeds germinate and are planted back into the gardens. SHR takes great pride in our meticulous data collection as this is the lifeblood of the landscape; knowing where we come from will help steer us where we are going in the future.
SHR co-founder Betty Balentine endearingly calls her role “editor of the garden” in SHR’s film Genius Loci: Southern Highlands Reserve as all gardeners know weeding is a year-round venture! Our gardeners are likewise busy being editors, removing what doesn’t belong, providing an essential part of the process as we make way for what we want to be growing in our garden landscape. While we remove what doesn’t work, we’re adding new plants to the landscape to encourage growth of what does work for the garden master plan.
With the occurrence of extreme weather events this summer, SHR staff are evaluating water mitigation measures in both the short and long term. Given the increased intensity and volume of water running off the landscape from storm events, we are implementing water mitigation best management practices to keep water on site and increase infiltration. These green infrastructure measures slow down the sheet flow of water as it moves across the landscape. Examples of some best management practices we are implementing are: dry creek beds, hydra-humps, swales, berms, and drainage systems.
Fall is a great time to prepare lawn areas for the next growing seasons. As you may know, SHR doesn’t have much lawn area in its gardens; however, the sections that do have turf are an essential part of the garden’s design. In the Wildflower Labyrinth, the ring of low-lying turf contrasts beautifully with the flourishing labyrinth, full of a wide spectrum of colors, sights, and smells. The nearby Betty Bench area, surrounded by low-growing turf, then provides a soft respite for the senses. Over-seeding the lawn areas and paying special attention to any bare spots will have it looking great by spring.
Fall is a key time to remove dead plant material and make way for spring growth. Our maintenance activities are focused on cutting down herbaceous perennials and annuals, removing plant material to make way for new fresh growth to emerge in the springtime creating a clean aesthetic for the winter bones of the gardens to be enjoyed. These plants have had their season and it is time to make way for the new neighbors to move in after winter. Debris and leaf removal is also important. We gather our leaves, shred them into mulch and place them back into the gardens. By mulching leaves, we speed up the natural process of composting that occurs within the garden and place those nutrients back into the soil. Ensuring soil beds are full of nutrient-rich material is essential to encourage root growth through the winter, a critical part of plants’ growing cycles. Further, the fresh mulch reduces weed growth in the early spring months.
Lastly, we are taking a deep breath and enjoying the fruits of our labor for the year, enjoying the fall color and mother nature’s last hoorah before the dormancy of winter.