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A LOT OF PEOPLE (myself included) give up, somewhat, on window boxes and outdoor containers by the time November rolls around. Others keep going… like the owners of the swell Manhattan townhouse, above, who’ve created an arresting display with gourds and berries.
My go-to place for inspiration in all seasons, including fall and winter, is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, above (that’s a side view of the Brooklyn Museum as seen from inside the garden), where crews were busy on Sunday repairing Sandy damage. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have been too extensive there.
Some go all out in autumn with mums. Usually that’s not particularly interesting, but I like the front yard planting, above, where the lavender mums are interspersed symmetrically with juniper, a yellow grass, and a deep purple leafed thing whose name is not springing to mind.
Sweet potato and coleus hang in through Thanksgiving, at least, the chartreuse of the always-satisfying sweet potato vine a vivid contrast against the brownstone.
A red annual grass is flourishing now in the concrete window boxes of a fine house on St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights. Is there anything being built today that matches the elegance of that hefty iron stoop railing and brownstone window ledges? No, there’s not!
I’M SHOWING YOU the window box, above, one of two attached to the front windows of my rental apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, not because I’m so very proud of it — they’re rather pedestrian, not to mention lopsided, but out of some documentary compulsion.
If you recall, this is what I started with in early May, below: pale white/lavender pansies, which I knew I’d have to replace in high summer, an interesting twisted juncus, vinca and bacopia vines, a hosta, and some angelina sedum. That, and high hopes.
As it happened, I did what I could on the fly on to keep them up on the infrequent occasions this summer when I spent time in Brooklyn. I had the help of my landlords, who kindly watered. I grabbed fill-in plants at the nearest hardware store, which turned out to be pink-red impatiens and begonias. I’ve done better in summers where I’ve actually been there to coddle, feed, and water, once even inspiring an entire block to follow suit.
Left to their own devices, the impatiens took over, the angelina sedum disappeared (not enough sun), and the bacopia and vinca drastically need cutting back. When I get back to Brooklyn tomorrow after more than a week away, who knows what I’ll find…but I think I’ll pick up a few mums or ornamental cabbages on my way to extend the season even further. After all, that’s what they sell those things for.
THAT PHRASE POPPED INTO MY HEAD TODAY as I raked leaves. It’s an impossible task, because every night’s breezes bring a fresh layer. Yesterday I observed my next-door neighbor raking, raking, raking, making huge piles for the town pick-up. Today, I glanced into his yard and saw that they’d been replenished. But I happen to know he rakes for fun, so it’s OK.
Daffodil bulbs ready to go in the ground at Bridge Gardens
Besides raking, I’ve been busy with other fall landscaping chores, inspired partly by a two-hour workshop I attended on Saturday at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton called “Putting Your Garden to Bed for the Winter.” At least half the discussion was about which hydrangeas bloom on old wood and which on new. I can’t have hydrangeas at all because of my deer friends, so I tuned out.
I was reminded of how important it is to keep watering, especially after such a dry season as we’ve had. I’ve been moving hoses around from individual tree to tree so they get soaked in the root zone (particularly some of the big evergreens that look parched), pulling up spent annuals, planting three new aronia (chokeberries) as part of my ‘tapestry hedge’ in front, and moving other things from places where they’re not thriving to places where I hope they will.
Below, annual Japanese fountain grass, perennial geranium ‘Roxanne,’ and Saturday students at Bridge Gardens
Just as I was coming to the end of today’s to-do list, the UPS truck pulled up with my bulb order from Scheeper’s. It’s not a big order — just 10 ‘Gladiator’ alliums, 10 gorgeous lilies I couldn’t resist, even though they need sun and deer like them (I’m going to plant them by the front deck and keep a spritz bottle of Deer-Off handy), and 100 Spanish bluebells for a wooded area in the backyard middle distance that I haven’t gotten around to doing anything with.
How Bridge Gardens deals with deer, below
I’m feeling a bit of urgency, as I’m moving into my Brooklyn pied-a-terre next Monday. I won’t be around much in November, and I want to leave my East Hampton place in good shape — well-watered, nicely mulched, cozily tucked in for winter.
One of several unusual types of elephant ear at Bridge Gardens, below