October brings falling leaves, fresh air and crisp blue skies. Fall has arrived. I feel an urgency to complete projects – finish a small rock wall, transplant a few perennials, gather the stakes and cages, clean the gutters, and collect some of the garden décor before it is too cold. Rather than rake fall leaves, I collect them with my mulching mower’s lawn clipping collection bag before they blow into the neighbor’s yard. I top off my compost bins with a layer of this mixture but most of it is placed in big garbage bags, tucked into a back corner of the yard, and allowed to decompose for a full year. Within a year, the debris is converted into leaf mold – black gold – the ultimate soil conditioner and mulch. As I write this, my garden has not yet been hit by frost. Many fall-blooming plants are still putting on a fabulous show. Two plants I believe all gardeners in cold-climate, short season areas should have are Autumn Joy sedum and tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis). Both plants are pest and disease free, look great all summer and are long-blooming. Sedum is a long-lived perennial and tall verbena is an annual that, if allowed to go to seed will provide you with volunteers for years to come.

Autum Joy Sedum

Verbena bonariensis

Tall Verbena is a butterfly magnet

My vegetable garden is winding down and I’ve cleaned out a lot of the fruits and vegetables because weather reports have been issuing frost warnings. Despite the fact that we had an extremely dry summer, the garden has yielded well. Pumpkins were smaller than usual this year because of lack of rain but they’re just the right size for a meal of roasted pumpkin for the family. I’m dehydrating tomatoes almost daily. It’s my new favorite way to preserve grape and cherry tomatoes. When they’re dehydrated, they look somewhat like raisins.  I use them as toppings for salads or throw handfuls into savory dishes. The flavor is phenomenal!

Pumpkin and butternut squash decorates the porch.

Small grape tomatoes are perfect for dehydrating.

Like most gardeners, I love to visit gardens when I’m on vacation. It gives me ideas and inspiration for the coming year. Already, I’ve put together a wish list of plants for next year. A recent trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden had me longing for hibiscus, a plant I’ve never grown. The size of the flowers stopped me dead in my tracks. The colors were spectacular. Next summer I will have this showstopper, wow plant in my garden!

This Hibiscus flower was 8 inches wide.

Large Hibiscus flowers with multiple blooms