Experiencing a Fall Garden: An Elderyarding Landscape Assessment
Open Your Eyes and Experience Your Fall Garden
As summer slowly winds into fall, your garden begins to calm down as it prepares for winter. This is the time to consider changes to make for a truly low maintenance landscape that is age manageable. The fall garden is all about change. Fall is the time to celebrate another year of enjoying your beautiful gardens, observing its unique character, then taking a step-by-step approach to Elderyarding® to prepare for the coming spring in your low-maintenance yard.
As the foliage begins to fall, it's time to step back, assess, celebrate and take a close look at the bones of your garden.
Can You See the Bones?
Assessing your garden starts by first dividing your yard into four parts – front, back, and each side. Walk around each section and look at all of the layers, from top to bottom. Start with the trees, then the shrubs, then any perennials and annual flowering plants and edibles, then turf and ground covers.
Examine each section with an eye towards changes you'd like to make, but don't forget to take the time to notice the leaf colors, and how they contrast with one another. Stand and look up, way up above eye level. This is where you'll see the first sugar driven changes in foliage, if you’re in a climate where frost happens. Stop an look down at what's underfoot. You may even want to sit for a minute and enjoy the leafy kaleidoscope that's already started. Some may be color, some may just be shades of brown. Enjoy and celebrate the incredible variety in the upper and lower surfaces of the same leaf, and of the leaves in the same tree.
Next, after you've taken a practical and mindful look at your yard, sit down and begin to take notes. You could do this outside, at a patio table. To further celebrate fall, try doing this with a glass of wine in hand, maybe even a nibble of fruit and cheese to keep your strength up.
Celebrating Your Fall Garden and Preparing for Next Season
Fall is the time for quietly contemplating your garden. Taking notes can help you to organize your thoughts and your chores as fall progresses. Start by dividing your notes page into two columns. On one side, jot down the plants or yard sections that are easy to care for and delightful to experience. On the other, write what is starting to become a chore to manage. List all the places and plants where pruning, weeding, fertilizing, spraying, clipping, mowing, trimming, dividing, and replanting is difficult or painful to do, and impossible to train a mow and blow company to handle.
Once you've formalized your list, it's time to be in the moment and celebrate fall! If you have the urge for repetitive clean-up tasks, gently rake leaves or scratch through the gravel to loosen the weeds that sneaked in, windblown survivors from summer. Exercise is good in this mellower time of year. And it doesn't have to be strenuous to accomplish a lot. Both for your garden and your health. Chopped leaves add some of the summer's richness back to your flower beds and create homes for butterflies and other insects to snooze thoruh the cold weather. And the raking itself can help you recall memories of gardens past and other useful chores.
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Finally, walk around your yard again, admiring your handiwork. Look beyond the work mindfully. Relax and watch the birds and butterflies that move through on their semi-annual journey. Take an inventory in your fall garden. What do you have available to them to nourish them for their journey? Take a wide view and look for seeds, fruits, flowers and plants that are home to insects. Watch their feeding habits and evaluate whether you have enough and the right kind of temptations for the creatures floating through your garden space and whether adding new plants can be beneficial in the future.
As fall arrives, assessing and celebrating your landscape in a mindful way can add to your enjoyment. It also helps you to set goals for expanding and maintaining areas that provide you joy. You may want to transform your yard into a true low-maintenance landscape, switching perennials for ornamental grasses or shrubs to reduce or eliminate the need for digging and dividing. You may decide to replace shrubs that always need trimming with a fence covered with an evergreen vine or an antique rose. You may choose to reduce the lawn with larger beds of ground covers, even gravel areas or paved patios.
As you make your plans and decisions, use your landscape's bones as a guide. The underlying skeleton of your fall garden provides the form and foundation that can guide successful changes. Landscape architects use repetition as one of the key elements to achieve unity in the garden. This sense of connected aspects of line, form, color, and texture creates harmony and gives your yard a more significant impact. This approach can be extraordinarily successful with an aging in place landscape.