Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fall is the time

Fall is the time I most want to plant. Many would suspect that its the spring, after the long winter. But autumn I think is the ideal time, especially in New York City. In the typical Brooklyn autumn, I like to start my transplanting around Halloween and often after that date. Given my garden's southern exposure and the warm temperatures we have been having over the last few years, my asters, sunflowers, roses and some annuals are still flowering at that time. I have years when these plants are still going in December. So it is that I hate to disrupt this display by tramping all over everything and digging things up. I want to wait until the last moment, and keep my eye on the coming weather. These days I'm just thinking about moving things, in November, I'm probably doing it.

Fall being a time to garden, transplant, and to find new plants, I like to go to nurseries. However, these days nurseries are filled with pumpkins, hay bales, and assorted autumnal decorations. Maybe they have bushels of apples for sale and hay rides in a wagon. Even my local nursery, and I am lucky to have one, brings out the decorations at this time of year.

J&L Landscaping on the corner of Caton Ave. and E7th St. in Brooklyn

We are all familiar with the Christmas trees and wreaths sold at nurseries in December. I am sure that many of you have noticed the creep of holiday sales into the fall planting season. Now I don't blame the nurseries. After all, they are businesses trying to make a buck. Most non-gardeners buy plants in late Spring and summer-when its on their minds. Gardeners of course are a different breed altogether, its always on their minds. So the nurseries succumbed to a business model that offers nostalgia and sentiment over plants. Check out the Blogging Nurseryman.

Part of the issue is that many nursery plants just look like hell in their pots at this time of year. Management wants them to be out of sight of future customers. Many days seen without water, blown over in windstorms, root bound in their pots. Who'd want to buy them. I just miss the days of sales, when a good gardener could resurrect almost any plant under duress, and get a good deal or two. The industry is such that retail nurseries will only get shipments of what the wholesale growers are pushing. In fall, you know its the Chrysanthemums. To be fair, most nurseries are still offering their selection of trees and shrubs until frost. Those are out past the 1/2 acre of pumpkins on hay.

As with all things lustful, there is the Internet. Gone are the days of mail order plants. I remember my first shipment from a catalog. Some dehydrated roots of who knows what! How disappointing to open your shipment of new plants and find three brown twigs. I was sure they were dead already, but then I was a kid and didn't know the first thing about it. The Internet changed all that. Glorious photos, all year round, of full healthy plants. Easy ordering and easy shipping.  Suddenly it was possible to get healthy, although small, plants fresh on your doorstep at the time to plant. Every plant I have ordered has survived, even thrived. White Flower Farm was the source for my Russian Sage, my Boltonia, and my Aster "Monch". All are very healthy. I also got nice lilium bulbs from Select Seeds, but get on it early as they do sell out. The only worry we have is whether or not we can be there when the FED EX guy shows up.

If you can tear yourself away from the Internet, go on over to your local nursery this fall and buy a plant (if you can find one). While your there, pick up a pumpkin. Still can't get those online.

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