Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
September, 2009
Regional Report

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Have fun decorating your home for fall this year.

Fall Fun

Even before the leaves start to change colors, there's a change in the air, the quality of light, the sounds. And, of course, there's that signature crystalline blue sky. No doubt, fall is fast approaching. So why not get started enjoying the fun opportunities to brighten the garden with flowers and our homes with natural decorations.

As your average, time-stressed person, what I find great about fall decorating is that it's easy to make an impact without much time, money, or effort. Not to say that I don't envy those who create elaborate designs, but I'm very grateful when anything cuts me a break. Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate fall in style.

Mums and Asters
Potted chrysanthemums and asters are widely available now. These add instant color to the landscape, whether worked into existing flower beds or set on steps, lining a walkway, as a outdoor table centerpiece, or used in other innumerable ways.

Chrysanthemums are synonymous with fall and are available in a wide variety of colors. Although there are many different flower and plants types and sizes, the most popular are the "cushion" mums that have a rounded, dome shape. Many of the mums purchased in bud or bloom at this time of year are not reliably hardy. If thinking of them as seasonal throw-aways pains you, here are a few tips to help them get established in your garden and come back next year. First of all, they should be planted at least six weeks before a killing frost in order for plants to develop a good root system. Mums grow best in moist, well-drained soil in a sunny location. After the ground has frozen this fall, apply a mulch of dried leaves or evergreen branches.

Available in many shades of purple, lavender, and pink, the asters we see at garden centers are derived, at least in part, from native American plants. Butterflies flock to them, and, an added bonus, deer usually don't bother them. To grow their best, plant them in an area with full sun and compost-enriched, moist but well-drained soil. Although spring-planted asters are extremely hardy, those planted out late in the fall may not establish.

Pumpkins, Squash, and Gourds
Set a couple of pumpkins on your front porch, add a potted mum or aster, and you're well on your way to having a welcoming home. Strangely shaped gourds and winter squash add intrigue. Use little one, big ones, outdoors and in. Pile up window boxes with them. Fill baskets with them. And, of course, paint them, if desired. Use spray craft paint to transform the entire surface, or acrylic craft paint and brushes to add faces, flowers, words, or whatever your creative heart desires. To have pumpkins, squash, and gourds last the longest possible time, dip them briefly in a solution made with one tablespoon bleach per gallon of water.

Look Around for Fall Decorations
Your critical side may first see a fading garden, but try looking at it with fresh eyes. That sweet corn patch yields plenty of stalks for making corn shocks to set at mailboxes, light posts, or porch posts.

Hydrangeas provide dried blossoms that can be used on wreaths and indoor bouquets. Don't like the color? Just spray them with florist's spray paint. Ornamental grasses yield plenty of materials for bouquets and wreaths, too. Have a wooded area or a friend with one? Look for chartreuse-green hedge apples as well as pods, branches, or items that would add to your fall displays.

Besides pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash, look for straw bales, Indian corn, and other materials. A simple but showy touch is to have a beautiful big multi-loop bow made at a florist then added to post light along with a bunch of Indian corn.

So don't be stressed this fall. Use flowers and other natural decorations to easily make your home festive, then enjoy each and every glorious fall day.

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