Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tidying Up for Fall

Gulf fritillary butterfly on Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida)
It's that time of year again. Time to tidy up the garden before it goes to sleep (not that the garden really goes that dormant in the South). I love the colors this time of year, and the last of the butterflies. The butterflies seem slower, on their last wings, so to speak. And so it's time for me to start moving the potted plants to a safer area. The last few years I've moved the succulents to my storeroom and the rest of the plants to a portable pop-up greenhouse. Uh, but as you can see ...

this old greenhouse isn't exactly in shape for anything. This is how it looked after a stormy night in October. I've found these types of greenhouses really don't hold up more than a year for me (I've had two of them). I think the intensity of the sun and heat here is too much for it. And yes, you're supposed to be able to roll it back up at the end of the season and put it in a case, but we tried that one time and it was a real comedy of errors. It never would go back in the case. So this year I never got around to replacing it, which meant the plants would have to go indoors.

Readying plants for lower light levels on the patio
They say you should gradually introduce your potted plants to less light before sticking them indoors. I have rarely done that but decided to make the effort this year. The large plants - olive tree, lemon tree, bay tree and bouganvillea - are the ones I'm most concerned about (I leave these foxtail ferns out during winter, though I'll move them closer to the house and cover them when there are heavy freezes). So here I've got them under the patio roof to ready them for the house. I left them here for at least two weeks.

Olive tree in the dining room
A week after moving the olive tree indoors it started to shed leaves. I'm expecting that to happen on most of the big ones (except maybe the lemon tree). Hang in there baby - it's only a few months.

Lemon tree, geranium and miscellaneous other plants
Fortunately, we have some good south-facing windows for these plants.

A few succulents upstairs in my office (with Chobe)
Still facing south, a few of the succulents that didn't fit in my storeroom are joining me in my office for the first time.

Succulents in the storeroom
In my storeroom I put as many succulents as will fit on a shelving system in front of the window. Unfortunately the window is an old polarized one, which means it doesn't get much sunlight. So I supplement with a few grow lights from the other side. I also clean up the plants by removing the fallen leaves and detritus from them. That can be hard to do when the plant is quite thorny, like my agaves. Since I don't own a leaf blower, here's a little trick I use - I use chopsticks to remove the leaves. Or just two thin bamboo sticks. If you don't have the hang of using chopsticks, just one stick can still knock out any fallen leaves and leave you relatively scar-free.

Front side garden
Just today I realized how much I liked the fall look of my front side garden. The pink muhlys aren't so pink anymore, but the 'White Cloud' muhly is really looking good. I realized this area is mostly a summer and fall garden, but it'll still look good in the winter with the grasses, cactus and agave giving it some structure. Maybe I need to think about adding some good spring color.

'White Cloud' muhly grass and Ipomoea lobata vine above it
Here's the 'White Cloud' grass with a lovely fall-blooming (at least for me) vine. This vine, Ipomoea lobata, has lots of common names but probably my favorite is exotic love vine.

A close-up of Ipomoea lobata
Such lovely fall colors on this vine. It's an easy one to grow from seed. I'm not that competent at growing plants from seed but I can grow this one!

Mexican mint marigold and unknown wasp(?)
So it looks like the season is winding down. I will miss my connection to the various pollinators in my backyard. But other than me needing to plant a few lettuce and kale seeds and a shrub and a tree, I think at least the garden is ready.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2011. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. Your fall garden looks fabulous. And I envy you your indoor accommodations. My only south-facing windows are inconveniently placed (one is right above my computer desk), so my indoor plants have to make do. They always grumble but manage to survive.

  2. I'm envious of your lovely indoor spaces for plants, Jean! I was over-wintering my plants in the only suitable room, an extra bedroom with south and west-facing windows. But my daughter moved back home, and I don't think she'll share her space with my geraniums and such:)

    The muhly grass is gorgeous!

  3. Oh, that muhly grass is gorgeous!

    I must say, I envy you your well-behaved kitty. I just brought in orchids and rabbits foot ferns before our early TX Hill Country freezes a couple of weeks ago, and already my cats have shredded/eaten leaves. The ferns are nothing now but rabbits feet and bare stems sticking up forlornly!

    Remind me why I love my cats?

  4. It is truly lovely, Jean. I adore the White Cloud, have it, divided it and nearly killed it. If I ever see another, greed will not interfere with growing it. I love the structures in the photo, too.

  5. Love the wasp shot. They never get any respect!

  6. What a beautiful fall garden. I love that white muhly and I am quite jealous of all your succulents. I am going to get some.

  7. Muhly envy here. They are lovely and photograph just like a cloud. A good cloud.

  8. I must look for the White Cloud Muhly!


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