The containers have been hauled away, the garden art removed, and the tools duct-taped and trucked off. If the prospect of moving had been a mere germ of an idea, tucked safely away in the back of my mind (under the rug in a spare room there), having a garden empty of ornamentation and tools has made me think seriously about it. Well, as seriously as the Last Frontier Gardener thinks about gardening and moving, which sadly isn’t very.
With this new minimalist palette sans junk (see photo below for a visual of a bit of the junk packed off) I have, choosing a favorite for month number 9 should be simpler than usual. No more being influenced by my favorite garden decor in the vicinity. Scrolling through months past here, here, and here, I notice almost all of my choices for “favorite” are in the immediate vicinity of the rusty salmon. Rather than think I’m shallow enough to be swayed by fish made of an old bathtub, I’ll just content myself with thinking all my favorites have been repeated throughout the backyard therefore I can’t help but choose one near the three groups of fish. There, that sounds better.
Now that my conscience is assuaged, I can finally get to the point: the most useful plant for September in my garden. For those further south (which is pretty much everybody, right?), September is sometimes known affectionately as “early winter” here in Alaska. The plant palette is, how shall I put this…subdued. Many plants touted to transform into bright reds or oranges freeze just as they are showing their beautiful color, become brown, and hang in the tree or shrub until the gale force fall winds take them. And perennials, don’t get me started on “selections for autumn”. Sedums do all right. The salvias and veronicas are iffy. I kill Asters by the score (including the orange one in my first photo), so don’t even think of recommending one to me. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve planted ‘Alma Potschke’, I’d be able to bankroll a political candidate. (No, not really, but I can’t help but have politics on the brain. Every news website has ads for them, every street has signs for them, and every radio station projects their voices. Thank heavens for democracy and the ol’ republic and all, but I am so sick of the political ads! Some wise soul remarked they’d rather be governed by 300 people randomly chosen from the phone book, than by the choices we have now. Amen brother!)
OK, now I am really getting to the point after a lengthy ramble. For those that stuck it out, my choice for September is Alopecurus pratensis ‘Variegatus’, or golden foxtail grass. And just to be difficult, you can also find this one under ‘Aureovariegatus’ or ‘Aureus’. Locally this grass is unusual, so check the Alaska Botanical Garden nursery first: it’s where I got mine, as divisions of display garden specimens. No one else wanted them, if you can believe it. Or check out Fritz Creek Nursery in Homer, which does mail order in Alaska.
What: a cool-season grass, one of the first perennials to show it’s face in spring, mostly clumping and not invasive/cheeky/seeding around for me
Where: full sun (more upright) to shade (floppier, in my experience); tolerant of many soil types, moisture levels (the more moisture, the floppier, also in my experience)
When: early spring emergence almost electric chartreuse, yellowish (in sun) in summer, yellow to dull yellow/green in autumn, under snow in winter so no clue as to winter performance other than it survives zone 3/4
1. smashing leaf color, excellent with blues, violets, reds, oranges, anything with an electric hued flower;
2. as with other grasses, the contrast of linear leaf shape with the bigger leaves of other perennials/shrubbery is a textural delight (no flowers necessary);
3. low maintenance (I do remove the inflorescences as they are rather sparse), no bugs, staking, or fertilizing necessary at my garden
4. looks good in a mass or by itself
And an autumnal boost for those of you that stayed with me: it’s 46 degrees Fahrenheit in my back yard right now. Makes you feel better, doesn’t it? (Except you poor lot in Fairbanks and beyond…so sorry.)
Any favorites for the month of September? Any political ads driving you up the wall?