A Note From Rick | October at Bridge Gardens

October 21, 2020

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

Change is in the Air

It’s October, early autumn, and a time when things are changing rapidly in the garden. Daylight hours are shorter, there are fewer tomatoes and eggplants, there is no more summer squash (at least not here) and there are signs of fall color in the leaves of trees and shrubs.

But this is still a busy time in the gardens of the East End.

Here at Bridge Gardens, the vegetable garden is still flush, yielding lots of peppers, kale and Swiss chard, plus butternut squash. Fingers crossed for the bush bean planted last month and now just blooming. Lettuces, leaf kale, arugula, cilantro, radicchios, bulb fennel, cabbages and broccolis are growing strong and hold much promise.


Fall color is starting and will continue through November. There are many beautiful examples of plants that offer autumn color, many of which are native plants that support our birds, bees and other wildlife. Itea virginica, Virginia Sweetspire, is showing color now into November, and is joined across the lawn by double-file viburnum, which will offer brilliant foliage through October. Coming soon will be the changing hues of oak-leaf hydrangea, which continue through December, plus amsonia and many native and non-native grasses.

Native grasses added to Bridge Gardens this year include Sorghastrum nutans ‘Sioux Blue’ and Sprobolus heterolepis ‘northern dropseed,’ pictured below, along with mixed Indian grass and Shizachyrium scoparium ‘little blue stem.’ These grasses offer graceful and complimentary foliage when planted together, and offer long-staked seed heads that help feed migrating birds.


Sporobolus heterolepis, 'northern dropseed,' located within the rose garden.

I’ve noticed many more varieties of birds visiting Bridge Gardens lately. It’s a popular stopping point as they migrate. Along with the seed heads from grasses and perennials, many feed on the fruits of various native shrubs found throughout the garden, including Ilex verticillata, winterberry, ‘Winter Gold’ which are loaded with berries right now. They provide a red and orange counterpoint that last through year’s end.

We had a wonderful crop of raspberries from plantings behind the vegetable garden and on the little hillock known as Emilie’s Berries. These lush and highly productive berry bushes were donated to Bridge Gardens by community gardener Rand Stoll and are named for his daughter. Community gardeners and visitors alike have enjoyed these natural sweet treats by the handful.


What Should You Be Doing Now?

It’s Time to :

  • Divide and transplant perennials like certain grasses, iris, ferns, and peonies. Dividing plants helps them stay healthy and vibrant. It’s also a great way to fill out your planting beds. Some perennials need more frequent division than others. Yarrows, veronicas, astilbes, shasta daisies, coral bells, creeping phlox, ajuga, and anthemis all need frequent division to maintain vigor and maximize flowering. Every year or every third year is the time to take on this important task. Other perennials like many grasses, goldenrods and hostas rarely need division, unless you are trying to propagate. And, if you have a lot of plants at the end of the day, consider sharing and trading with a gardening friend! Check out our video Dividing Ferns in Fall, where I am showing you the simple steps to dig, divide, and replant ferns in the shade garden.
  • Plant - or buy - your spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils, tulips, crocus, and lilies. There is nothing cheerier in late winter than to see a green shoot sprouting from the ground with promise of springtime color. As soon as you read this, head out right away to purchase bulbs from a reputable plant nursery where you’ll find the healthiest and strongest stock. It’s too late to order them online now, but there are still some available at local garden centers. I’ve got hundreds of daffodils to plant in our orchard and the “no-mow” areas of the garden. Perma-culture advocates recommend planting a ring of daffodils around each fruit tree in the orchard to discourage voles. They’ll bloom with the apples and pears in May. In the no-mow areas, early daffodils will be paired with Chionodoxa, also known as Glory of the Snow, along with English daisy and native columbine.
  • Plant garlic! Purchase seed garlic, not garlic from the grocery store which has been treated to resist sprouting. Divide each head into individual cloves. Plant each clove in a row as late as the beginning of November and they’ll sprout by the end of February, and are ready for harvest in mid-July. Each clove planted will produce a new head of garlic.
  • Plan and execute lawn renovation projects. Mid-October is the latest you should be seeding your grass, since it needs a minimum of 50-degree nighttime temperatures to germinate. You’ll find more details about lawn care in a 2-part video series with Paul Wagner of Greener Pastures Organics.

What’s Up With My Lawn Part I

What’s Up With My Lawn Part II


New Video: How-to Divide Ferns with Rick

Autumn is a great time to divide many kinds of perennials, including the Crested Lady fern, located in a shady area of the Inner Garden. There are a variety of ferns throughout the garden, many propagated by division.

Take a few minutes to watch this video with Rick as he divides crested lady ferns in the shade garden. You’ll learn the simple steps to safely divide ferns - and most plants - along with tips on successful replanting.

Expand your garden beds with these new plants or swap with a friend, and you’ll both enjoy a fuller garden next year!


It has been wonderful to see so many people stop in to Bridge Gardens this year. I think we’ve had more visitors this year than any other. People of all ages have come, many parents with children, many couples, and many others who just want to enjoy a beautiful space and delight in the plantings and landscape, and often return over and over again. With change in the air, I hope that you too will come and enjoy the autumn beauty throughout the garden.

See you soon ~~ Rick

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