A Note from Rick | Autumn Season Awaits

November 6, 2017

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

The Gardens Beckon in Mid-Autumn... and We're Now Open Year Round - Come Visit!

Summer’s lush growth has gone, but the colors and textures of the Autumn season await you. When you visit, you’ll be greeted by this beautiful sweetspire, with its vibrant red color, beautifully set off by the golden yellow of winter hazel. Sweetspire, a native plant, offers an abundance of scented white flowers in early summer, tolerates shade as well as sun, and has a smaller size that is perfect for a mixed perennial bed.

Growing near the sweetspire is Amsonia hubrichtii, preparing to unleash its fiery orange and yellow color - quite amazing. These plants grow in a clump form and look great as a border. While they offer light blue flowers and feathery green summer foliage, their beautiful fall color really is a treat. I’ve planted these at the north end of the beech hedge, near our patch of native Prickly Pear cactus.


Take time to meander along the garden path before heading to the vegetable garden. I’ve been enjoying a lot of time in the vegetable beds, and have harvested an abundance of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, greens like Swiss chard, kale, cilantro, arugula, Romaine and Bibb lettuce, bulb fennel, radicchio and escarole as well as carrots and even tiny red hot peppers. Unfortunately, last week’s wind storm damaged our Brussels sprouts with some ripped right out of the ground, but there will be a few stalks to send to the Sag Harbor food pantry - where we donate food weekly throughout the growing season every year.

The Cryptomeria, planted nearby to the vegetable and herb beds, is the tallest evergreen tree at the Gardens, and is underplanted with Winterberry hollies. These shrubs always astound me with their red and orange berries, offering food for our feathered friends. Another wonderful berry-bearing shrub is this non-native evergreen holly, called Yuleberry. I especially enjoy this plant because of its heavy fruit set and classic holly leaves, and at this time, the berries are beginning to turn red, just in time for the holidays.

Now is the time to prepare your garden for winter’s rest, and get ahead of the colder weather, surely coming our way at some point!

Cut back perennials and remove annuals. Cutting back perennials is a necessary garden chore that will reward you with more robust plants in the springtime. Remove cut or fallen debris as well as any annuals you’ve planted to eliminate cover for moles and voles who find leaf and plant cover the perfect place to live and feast upon your roots and bulbs. 

Weed.  It’s very important to remove weeds now before your garden beds greet winter’s slumber, otherwise the weeds will be back in full force come springtime, adding to your work during that busy season.

Prune shrubs and tree.  As the leaves disappear from trees and shrubs, crossing branches become more obvious. Pruning to remove these will help keep your trees and shrubs healthy by eliminating places where bark rubs off and insects can enter. Take a step back and look at your trees and shrubs overall structure and shape and then prune carefully to ensure beauty. If you’re not sure how to do this, contact a local certified arborist.

Plant bulbs if you haven’t already.  While they should have been planted in September and October to allow for optimal root growth, this season’s warmer weather gives us a window to continue planting. Get them in the ground as long as it’s dig-able. See more about bulbs in the section below, with tips from our program partner, Summerhill Landscapes.

Our recent workshop - focused on sourcing, selecting and planting bulbs for springtime color - was a big success. Special thanks to Susanne Dowling from Summerhill Landscapes who presented the how-to’s and showed us all some best practices to ensure a beautiful flush of color in spring.

In case you missed it, tips from the workshop include:

  • Planting fall bulbs allows you to jump-start your garden months before spring. Cooler weather allows bulbs to winter over, an important process that the bulbs need to kick them out of dormancy.   
  • Since early bulbs such as snowdrops and crocus bloom before most trees form leaves, they can be successfully planted under deciduous trees.
  • Prep your soil - bulbs need phosphorous. It encourages root and shoot development. A good source of phosphorous is bone meal.
  • The general rule of thumb when planting fall bulbs is to plant at a depth three times the size of the bulb. For example, daffodil bulbs roughly 2 inches in size should be planted to a depth of 6 inches.
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