As we move forward into October, there is a change in the air. We have finally reached the temperatures that shake things up in our backyards and in our minds. The air is cool because the humidity is lower and it seems like there is less haze in the sky, which always leads to that October sunburn. I imagine it must be feeling that way in parts of Colorado all summer. With our nighttime temperatures hitting the 60s, it’s hot much later in the day. By then, temperatures start to drop again.
This is not all that falls. At home we keep our battery powered blower on the charger all the time in order to deal with daily leaf fall. My soft, slender dark green gums are usually the first to dance. They drop gold leaf everyday while the entire tree turns bright yellow. The slender figures grow exactly like the Italian cypress trees, tall and lean. We lined our road to the barn with evergreen arborvitaes between each so that when the soft gums let their skirts drop we still have a great elliptical green all winter long. It’s a brave thing to do to line up a driveway or road with some type of plant. If you lose one, it’s really hard to find a replacement that will match the others in terms of size.
We love the Italian cypress in a line look, but they have proven to be too unreliable. Just when you get 10 years of growing in an Italian cypress line, you’ll just decide it’s time to go. Finding an Italian cypress that would match 10 years of growth is very difficult to do. We hope that since the sweet gums are native here, they will be a safer bet. We’ve been there eight years and they are 35 feet tall and only 12 feet in circumference.
Plant breeders do a lot of work in the world of elliptical growth habit. I was walking around the Mississippi State Campus where they made some great plantings. I noticed a slender tulip poplar, emerald green arborvitaes, two types of columnar oaks, a columnar ginkgo that was gorgeous called golden arrow ginkgo and my favorite a crimson tipped flowering plum we just received from Monrovia.
The reason ranchers do so much work on columnar trees is that someone with a yard not big enough for a full-sized tree can go upright. Slender trees can be planted closer to a house or fence than a regular tree. There are many choices for columnar growing trees that have been around for a long time, such as blue arrow juniper, arrow juniper, pencil point juniper. Many holly grow in this form with very little height, and Japanese yews can grow very tall with relatively little width. It’s time to start shopping at garden centers as we stock our fields of trees for fall planting.
Years ago we started to take an interest in the crazy world of ornamental gourds and pumpkins. We used to take an 18 wheeler up the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina to fill the truck with the craziest gourds we could find. Now that I’ve learned the names of the pumpkins, I can call for whatever I need and have them trucked in. Produce stalls and most garden centers have done a great job of keeping Mississippi in the garden pumpkin decorating world.
The Jack-o’-lanterns took precedence over the interesting and beautiful pumpkins of different colors. High design magazines use them for indoor and outdoor fall decoration. Some of the shapes and colors are quite exquisite, almost from another world or from the underwater coral world. Stacks of large contrasting colors of the stackable pancake pan pumpkins can be found. There’s a red one called Cinderella, a fairy tale, whites, blues, and a buckskin flat pumpkin. There are giant, round white pumpkins called lumina and smooth or warty round blue pumpkins. There are striped ones, snake-shaped ropes, birdhouse gourds, miniature pumpkins, warty gourds, all quite stunning in a proper display.
I see a lot of people getting three bales of wheat straw, a mix of pumpkins, bales of corn stalks, and mums to create some wonderful fall displays. The variety of pumpkins available now is more of a celebration of the harvest. Later in October, with the addition of some good old fashionable orange lanterns, they can be turned into Halloween decoration. Most unusually colored pumpkins have thick rinds, so if the weather stays cool, they can last until Thanksgiving for another look.
I see a lot of families coming this time of year to take great photos of their children and dogs. We encourage photo takers to organize the pumpkins in whatever way is appropriate to get the perfect photo, maybe even a Christmas card if the photoshoot doesn’t turn into a calamity filled with tears of upset fathers and children. who cry. I saw a lot of them too. I had my turn with this. I wish you good luck.
The good thing is that produce stalls and garden centers are outside and relatively safe places to shop when it comes to the Covid mess. Come and spend a moment of relaxation in your favorite place. Bring your pet and experience the whole different feeling at Jackson garden centers now that fall has taken over the displays. This is when we are at our best.
Don’t forget to add us to your calendar for our annual Plants, Pumpkins and Pinot on Friday evening October 15th. The name of the event says it all. They convinced me to be the guest speaker for this evening. I won’t start thinking about what I’m going to talk about until I get close to the microphone, so that should be interesting.