Gardening November 2021

From Mélie’s Garden

The fall on Fishers Island has been particularly glorious this year. The plants in the garden have loved the mild temperatures and the generous amount of rain during the past four months. Never have I seen everything this green at this time of year.

Soon this lovely growing time will come to an end with the first frost and the garden will need to be cleaned up for the winter. Cut back the dead foliage. Remove and compost all annuals and cut perennials down to a few inches above the ground. Healthy cut plant material can be composed, but be sure to bag up and remove any invasive or diseased plants.

Dahlia tubers with the eyes in tack and ready for storage. Photo credit: East of Eden Flower Farm

Dahlias should be dug up after the first couple of frosts; If dug before then, they “are too green to store” according to Swan Island Dahlias. However, they also say it is safe to dig them up in mid-November if there hasn’t been a frost. Hose the dirt off and let them dry for 24 hours. Once dry the tubers should be stored in a cool dry area with temps of 40-50 degrees in a crate or cardboard box lined with newspaper. I have mixed results in this process because I don’t quite have the perfect spot temperature-wise. However, I have had some luck storing tubers in coolers filled with peat moss placed in a room where the heat is not above 40.  Some people have had success in wrapping the tubers in saran wrap before storing them, something Swan Island strongly disagrees with, so I think one has to experiment to see what works for you. It also helps if you don’t cut off the eyes on the tuber when you divide a big clump up for storage as I did one year when separating them!  The tubers didn’t rot, but I had destroyed the most important part for regrowth and it was a disaster, so be careful!

Looking back over this growing season there are a number of plants that have been absolute standouts starting with peonies, roses, and bearded iris in the spring and continuing with Siberian iris and Oriental lilies in the summer. Large mallows provided an August punch in the flower beds and Asters and Goldenrod have continued color in the garden along with a second blooming of a number of roses. 

Hydrangeas have also benefited from all the rain and are enormous around our house.  But one plant that has almost outperformed the rest is a dwarf butterfly bush, buddleia “Pugster Blue”, which has bloomed for months. I have conscientiously deadheaded the faded flowers, which I know has inspired it to continue to bloom and the small bush has been covered with monarch butterflies all season long!  It should be a must in everyone’s garden as we encourage planting for the “pollinator highway” on our Island.

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