Great Gardening Weather is Here

This is my time of year! The weather is cool, some of my favorite foods are now in season, and some of my favorite plants are now in bloom. Along the walk to my front door, talinum paniculatum has reseeded itself and is on display. Commonly known as Jewels of Opar, this variety has lime green leaves, which are striking next to the lavender flowers of verbena bonariensis. But it is the seed capsules of talinum that are the wonder. They are very small. And these pink and red spheres, each hanging at the ends of tiny branches. Ooh! These plants are like circus wagons along the path. Buy these annuals and they will be with you for years.

Verbena bonariensis has become a fixture in my garden. It has clusters of lavender flowers at the ends of awkwardly architectural stems. It self-seeds profusely, giving the gardener many location opportunities.

Mauve, pink and white Japanese anemones are blooming nicely counterbalanced by aconitum. I think I have aconitum nepellus. There are many varieties of aconitum; white to deep cobalt blue and two to six feet tall. They begin blooming in September and continue into November. Their blue is almost electric in the autumn light and very beautiful with ornamental grasses, also at their showiest now, or with Oak leaf hydrangeas, which are just turning to red.

Aconitum are deer resistant, shade tolerant and easy to grow once established, but they are also poisonous. Wear gloves when working with the foliage and don’t nibble! They are not readily available and take a year or more to establish, but they are long-lasting and very much worth the effort and patience.

Digitalis mertonensis plants, which began as tiny seedlings in the spring, are now big and ready to bloom next spring as hollyhocks. These are both bi-annuals and self-seeders that were planted in my garden many years ago and have since moved around at will, which is fine with me.

Fall vegetables and fruits are at the farmers markets now. At the farmers market in Sag Harbor, I saw some wonderful savoy cabbage (huge and very puckered), cauliflower, broccoli and many varieties of winter squash, which are delicious baked, sautéed, made into soup, cakes and pies. There are acorn, banana, buttercups, cabochons and huge blue Hubbard squashes. There are still potatoes and sweet potatoes available as lettuces, arugula, broccoli rabe, pumpkin and radishes. The root vegetables like carrots, beets and turnips are in abundance.

Seeing all of the produce now available makes me long for a root cellar. My uncles had root cellars, which were cave-like rooms that had been built into mounds of earth. They had packed earth floors and wooden shelves. There was a pipe extending above the mound for ventilation and a wooden door leading into the slightly humid darkness. But the treasures inside! My Aunt Helen had hers stocked with “canned goods” from the summer harvest, and the bounty of the fall harvest. The root cellar had the perfect conditions to keep these things into the winter.

And they also had other uses. When the siren blew, warning of approaching tornadoes, we went into my uncle’s root cellar until the all clear. This root cellar experience was not a comfortable one in the dark with the flashlight and the spiders and the possibility of a tornado, but it was better than being in the basement!

We had a root cellar-like situation under the stairs in the basement where my mother stored potatoes, onions and the summer produce we had canned.

Oh for that abundance in my basement now!

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener and consultant. For gardening discussion, call her at
631-434-5067.

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