Cooler temperatures bring color change

KATE COPSEY T&D Garden Columnist

Finally, temperatures have cooled enough to see a color change in shrubs and trees as well as new blooms on shrubs like roses and azaleas.

The cooler days gave me the opportunity to return to the garden to do some much-needed weeding and plan some additions to the landscape. In a few weeks, catalogs will tempt gardeners with new selections, but it’s wise to figure out what you need before they arrive so you don’t over-order for your landscape space.

Fall planting is always a great way to spend a day in the garden, whether you’re in the vegetable patch or the shrub and perennial garden. Shrubs and small trees are my favorite to plant in the fall as we tend to get a few more rainy days than in the spring. Most trees will either be dormant upon delivery or close to dormancy, so don’t be put off by bare branches – a small scratch on the bark will reveal the tree is alive. In the spring, the tree will produce buds and flowers as if it has been in your landscape for years.

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Although we are still a few weeks away from the first frost of winter, it is wise to plan what you will protect and how. Annual plants, such as sunflowers, are generally not worth trying to keep because they have completed their life in a single season. Perennials and larger items generally do well over winter, but tender perennials and tropical items should be protected from severe frosts. How much frost a plant can tolerate depends on the plant, but I tend to be on the safe side and protect soft items from any frost.

For my plants, the first protected are citrus fruits. Most citrus trees can tolerate a light frost, but the blossoms are susceptible to damage and as you want the fruit from your citrus trees, you must protect the blossoms and young fruit. Many citrus trees flower in late summer but early winter and produce fruit in summer. A sunny indoor location is therefore preferable for them. A short dormancy is beneficial for citrus trees before the flowers set, so don’t rush the trees into their winter home, but be ready by the end of the month to move them – or if we get a frost eve.

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You can also pot up a few tender perennials like begonias or petunias that die with frost but can be kept indoors until next spring. Cut the plants back and keep them in a light but cool place until late winter, then turn up the heat in the area and let the plant grow for planting out in late spring.

At the end of the main garden season, take time to sit in the garden and enjoy what you are creating. You might even see the early-blooming winter flowers on camellias and witch hazel.

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Kate Copsey is a garden designer, writer, and speaker who now lives in eastern Orangeburg County. His book “The Downsized Veggie Garden” is available in bookstores around the world as well as on his web page