Fall Garden Chores

When the Other Half and I returned from gallivanting around the lovely Emerald Isle, we were greeted with colder temperatures and rain. The rain subsided this past weekend, so we were able to get out into the garden and get some seasonal chores done in the sunshine and crisp, autumn air. Having lived on the Lot for six years now, we find ourselves following a similar routine each October.

Get ‘Em in the Ground

Whether it be end-of-season plant sales or spring bulbs, in our Zone 6a the time is now to get those suckers into the ground. I still had a weigela, goji berry, and rose to work into the landscape yesterday. I have yet to find a place for a beautiful, little rue I brought back from Portland with me. I try to plant any stragglers as close to the beginning of the month as possible so they can become settled in their new home before the winter arrives. Halloween has been a nice deadline for planting spring bulbs.

Bring in the Crockery

We have a handful of planters on the Lot, most being terracotta. Our first winter here, I found terracotta is not something you leave to overwinter in the garden. Moisture will freeze, expand, and destroy those lovely planters. Statues, supports, planters, wind chimes, solar lights… all of it is stowed in the garage or in the basement until spring.

Unhook Rain Barrels & Hoses

The first winter we had rain barrels installed, I learned a full, half-frozen rain barrel is unwieldy and may crush you if given the opportunity. Drain the barrels and unhook / stow the pvc now. Pull up soaker and garden hoses and put them away.

Utilize Those Clippings

The Other Half and I are not fans of paying the city to dispose of grass clippings and leaves. Both ingredients are gold for providing nutrients to the lawn and garden. The Lot always has its grass clippings mulched back into the turf. During the fall season, some of those clippings and shredded leaves are placed in both the compost bin and raised veggie beds as a balanced combination of greens and browns.

Make the Veggie Beds

Growing season is coming to a close in Zone 6a. Beyond the parsnips and a handful of cool crops, most plants are finished producing. We usually clean up the vegetable beds in the fall, removing any decaying produce and plants. The beds are then filled with equal parts shredded leaves and grass that will break down over the winter.

What Not to Do in the Garden During Fall

It kills me each fall, but when the garden is overgrown and crazy at the end of the summer and October has arrived, put away the pruners! When a plant is pruned it responds with a new flush of growth. Energy will be put into this action instead of into stores for the winter and the upcoming growing season. Don’t send those mixed messages to your plants. It’s just not nice.

Are there exceptions? Of course! If you need to prune away seed heads of aggressive self-sowers, that’s okay. Most of the time those guys are thugs anyway. I’ve also cut back hostas after the first frost has zapped the foliage.

National Botanic Gardens, Ireland

Among the many gardens and green spaces we visited while in Ireland, the Other Half and I spent a wonderful morning in the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. The gardens are located in Glasnevin, a neighbourhood of Dublin, and span 19 hectares (about 47 acres) of land. According to literature provided by the Heritage Service of the Office of Public Works, the gardens were “conceived as a national institution to serve the scientific community and agricultural interests of the country” and “have a distinguished record in the progress of Irish botany and an international reputation in the development and history of horticulture world-wide.” Admission to the garden is free.

Garden Entrance

The current collection of plants includes approximately 20,000 species and cultivars. The gardens spanned throughout glass houses and outdoor beds. A rose garden, heather collection, grass garden, holly hedges, rock garden, bog garden, fern garden, herbs and vegetables, rhododendron collection, woodland garden, alpine yard, burren garden, and various groves of trees were just some of the plants growing on the property.

Plant Combinations & Design Ideas

One of the reasons I love visiting botanic gardens is to view examples of plant combinations actually installed and growing in a bed. Most of the plants are mature, so it is easy to walk around them and see the height, form, color, and texture. Also, plants requiring the same soil and light are featured together. Here are just a few of my favorite combos:

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The Mighty Trees

“Some of the finest individual specimens in the Botanic Gardens are trees.” I could not agree more. Repeatedly while visiting Ireland’s landscape I was amazed at the truly magnificent trees. It didn’t make a difference if we were in the countryside or in the middle of a manicured, urban setting. They were so huge compared to the area I live. They were so old! The collection was quite impressive, and I was even able to meet a few trees I had not met before. The different colors and textures of bark, leaves, and overall shape of the trees were really interesting.

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The Macro View

With a landscaped area of these proportions, it was fun to pull back the camera and take a more macro look at the overall composition and combination of the different plants. This level of design is something I have yet to master as a gardener. Take a look at these lines, colors, shapes, and textures.

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Fraoch mór

And it wouldn’t be Ireland without the heather! The heather had reached the height of its blooming period by this time and was beginning to fade. Still it was so dainty and pretty. Here are some additional shots of the heather collection in the gardens.

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 Garden Fauna

I was able to get a few good pictures of some garden residents. How did that snail make it up into that plant?

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 Pleasant Surprises

And then there were some parts of the garden that were fun discoveries. We couldn’t make much sense of the map (we believe it may have been outdated), so this led to a lot of wandering around the property. That’s when we’d stumble onto something unexpected. For example, this “Yew Walk” (or Addison Walk) is the last remaining plant installment of the garden’s original planting in 1740.

Yew WalkThis was a pretty mosaic we spotted up along the path. When drawing nearer, we found it was created with skillfully placed succulents.

DSC_0325smDSC_0328smThis old wisteria had been trained along metal poles and chains to grow together and create a type of tent or gazebo covering. I would love to be here when it is in bloom.

DSC_0285smThese nasturtiums were ridiculously huge and happy next to the veggie garden’s compost demonstration area.

DSC_0277smAlso in the veggie garden area was this fun herb garden. Each plant had its place in this sculpted hedge.


Powerscourt Estate

After a few days in Dublin, the Other Half and I took a day trip south of the city to County Wicklow. We left the city in the morning, riding in a small van along some very curvy roads, to spend the day touring the Powerscourt Estate, some Monastic ruins, and the Wicklow Mountains. I of course was most excited to see the the award-winning gardens at Powerscourt which began to take shape almost two and a half centuries ago.  Ah Europe, you have so much history to share!


Quite a backyard, huh? This main terracing was part of a redesign by Daniel Robertson in the 1840s. As the 6th Viscount’s architect, he drew up the plans in the style of Italianate garden design. This style began in Italy and was echoed in formal gardens across Europe. After his father’s death, the 7th Viscount completed Robertson’s plans and adorned the garden with a collection of ironwork gates and statuary. The view from the terrace is quite breathtaking as it has a natural backdrop of the Sugar Loaf Mountain.





The Walled Garden

Paths leading away from the main, back terrace brought us to a walled garden. Here in one of the oldest parts of the gardens, the plantings were more traditional and formal. There were many flowering beds with a mixture of perennials bordered by annuals, a collection of roses, and the glass greenhouses. Finely manicured trees were placed along the edges of the walkway and used as accents in the lawn. A collection of huge, showy hydrangeas and ornamental shrubs were placed along the walls that were not accessible by paths. I really enjoyed a colorful bed full of nothing but dahlias surrounded by alyssum.






Wooded Walk

The Powerscourt garden design “reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape.”  I really enjoyed the blending of the more formal grounds and paths into this more wooded and winding walkway area of the estate. For over two hundred years, many specimen trees have been added. Currently there are about 250 varieties to see. There was also a Rhododendron Walk were the rhododendrons were in fact the size of small trees.




Pet Cemetery

Yes! As silly as some people may think it is, I cannot tell you how heartwarming I found this little lot nestled back in the woods. Plus, there weren’t any stray cats wandering around, so the visit was quite endearing. This is the resting area of many beloved pets of generations of the Wingfield and Slazenger families. This grave marker for two of the family’s cows, Eugenie and Princess, was my favorite.

DSC_0151smA Victorian’s Japanese Garden

The 8th Viscount and Viscountess added a Japanese Garden to the estate in 1908. Having visited Japanese Gardens before, it was interesting to see this Victorian interpretation of the style. Instead of very carefully placed wood and stone elements, the winding paths had more iron and stone statues as accents. Azaleas, Japanese Maples, and Chinese Fortune Palms were planted here. Yes, palm trees can be grown in Ireland. Zone envy!

Adjoined to the Japanese Garden is a little grotto area surviving from the original garden design in 1740. The walls of the grotto are made from fossilized sphagnum moss and covered in trickling water, moss, and ferns. The Other Half really enjoyed this secret nook.



DSC_0166smThe Pepper Pot Tower

The last area of the gardens we visited was Tower Valley. The wonderful collection of trees extends to this area where a stone tower stands. The structure was designed after a pepperpot from the family’s dining room table. I immediately thought “This would be the best playhouse ever!” I mean, could you imagine being a kid and having this in your backyard? Then the Other Half and I hurried along the path, past the mock cannons, and up the spiral stairs to enjoy the view of the Powerscourt House and Gardens from the top.