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Kip Anderson
Gardener Kip Anderson

October: Not ready to enjoy fall foliage yet

Kip finds comfort in shrubs that finally hit their stride
by Kip Anderson

For reasons unknown to me, this year many trees have taken on autumn color earlier than usual, and I'm not sure I'm happy with that. Winter comes soon enough as it is, and there is no call for the woods that verge on the west side of the property (or anywhere else, for that matter) to get a head start. I'm not ready to begin enjoying fall foliage, not ready at all.

The end of the growing season is a time of ambivalent feelings for me. On the one hand, it's nice to know that summer's uphill struggle is done with and I can let down my guard a bit; on the other, there is a sense of many small losses, such as not being able to eat a really good tomato for another ten months.

The annual garden has fallen apart and will soon be blackened from the effects of frost. The perennial border is still looking good, but that will change dramatically by the end of the month. A number of our shrubs, now that they have been in the ground a few years, have finally hit their stride, and they are peaking in these post-equinox weeks:

Heptacodium miconioides (seven sons flower)
One of only a few late-flowering shrubs, the blooms are fragrant and are followed by bright red enlarged calyxes.

Callicarpa dichotoma (beautyberry)
Clusters of electric violet fruit festoon the length of each arching branch.

Lespedeza thunbergii (bush clover) 'Gibraltar'
The four-foot stems, which completely cover themselves with rose-purple flowers, get cut to the ground at season's end.

Before long we will be down to gray twigs, exfoliating bark and whatever in the way of conifers we've had the foresight to provide ourselves, but there are compensations along the way: by the middle of the month there will be broccoli to cut and foot-long Asian radishes to pull.

Kip Anderson has been the Victory Garden's head gardener for over 20 years.

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Published August 31, 2007