I love to walk around the garden in October, kicking up the fallen leaves and feeling the frost on my face. I guess because I’ve spent my whole life with four seasons, I don’t lament the change of seasons. I think of it as a time to erase some mistakes in the garden, to clear the slate and start anew.
One of the highlights of fall for nearly everyone is to watch the changing colors of the leaves. Around my garden and neighborhood, the brightest trees in the fall are the maple trees, including both sugar maples (Acer saccharum) and red maples (Acer rubrum). I watched earlier this summer when a crew cut down a big sugar maple my Dad planted over 50 years ago. It died unexpectedly this year. My sister, who still lives in the house we grew up in, and her family will miss the colorful display from that tree but probably won’t miss all the leaf raking they had to do afterward.

Red maple trees have red foliage in the fall.

Sugar maple trees have orange foliage in the fall.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people shun mums in the fall, perhaps as too common or because they can’t get them to come back in the spring. I love mums and the color they add to my fall garden. I tell people the best way to get the most out of mums is to buy them early when they are just showing a hint of flower color. The flowers will last much longer for them. Mums are a great container plant and can be tossed out once they fade. But I like to grow mums in my garden. My trick to get them to return each year is to plant them as early as possible and don’t cut them back until spring when the first new growth begins to show.

Orange mums look great in the fall..

Key Lime’.

Later in October, I’ll be on my hands and knees planting corms for crocuses (mostly Crocus tommasinianus) and bulbs for glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa sp.) directly in the lawn. I’ve planted thousands of them over the past several years and my reward is a lawn with a steady stream of blooms starting in early February. I don’t use herbicides on the lawn so once the crocuses and glory-of-the-snow have finished blooming, I do get a few dandelions and later a lot of clover blooming in the lawn. But I don’t mind. It’s worth it for the flowers!

Crocuses bloom in the lawn in early spring.

Glory-of-the-snow blooms in the lawn in early spring.