Perennial-planting time is coming
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Sep 19, 2012 | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Many perennials are on the market now, including peonies and most of the favorites for perennial beds. Contrary to what many gardeners think, fall is an excellent time to plant the old favorites. When buying peonies, remember that the price doesn’t mean the plant is more or less valuable. The old favorites will always be cheaper than the newer varieties. However, you may want to try at least one of the newest varieties of peonies.

The important thing to remember in planting perennials in fall is that you must get them in the ground early enough that the roots can become established before cold and freezing weather. If you have wondered if you can move some of your perennials around in your flower beds, this is the time, at least during September. The reason fall is better for transplanting than spring is because if transplanted in spring, the leaf system is calling for nutrients before the roots are established and ready to support the leaves and stems. In fall the cooler air causes the flow of sap to stop and the plant no longer concentrates on making green leaves and blooms but still concentrates on the root system and all the root activity takes place while the top dies down. Simple, isn’t it? Just remember that as long the ground temperature stays at 40 degrees, or better, the root system continues to grow.

This explanation is what my grandfather had in mind when he talked about the sap going down in plants, including trees.

Watering all plants at this time of year is important, especially those with short root systems such as rhododendrons and azaleas. Most losses of those two plants are caused by dry soil. There are many other perennials that need plenty of moisture and some of those are roses, astilbe, hostas and those old favorites, the tall garden phlox. All foundation plantings need extra watering before going into the winter months.

This is the time of year when I think of Ma and Pa’s old attic which would be the place to store most everything. Once, it was the place for the young men in the family to have beds. There was room for several half beds and, according to Ma, it was full back when Pa’s brothers were all still at home. After all, there were eight boys in the Lewis family.

When I was a child, there were no beds up there but everything imaginable hung from the rafters. When fall came, Pa hung whole peanut vines, peanuts still attached, to a rafter.

Ma’s brother’s Spanish American War uniform hung up there and an old violin and a guitar or two. I remember too that Pa hung popcorn on rafters. He tied several together by the shucks and hung them to completely dry. That popcorn was sure a treat in cold winters, popped in an old wire popper with a long handle held over the log fire. Ma might make popcorn balls, with homemade molasses. What a treat. She could also make the most wonderful pulled molasses taffy. I remember being so pleased when I was old enough and strong enough to pull the taffy. Most of my childhood was spent thirty miles from Ma and Pa and I could only visit. But I took all the visits I could get.

That old attic was a real treasure trove to us grandchildren. Ma’s old grandmother’s little trunk was just crammed with fun things to look at. She only asked that we put everything back as it was.

Pa was a great reader and he stored many books by Zane Grey. In fact, I think he had all his books. He also loved detective magazines and had stacks of those plus some mystery books. I often wonder, now that I am old myself, how he ever had time to read so much while getting up before daylight to start his long day of farm work. Of course, after the tobacco crop was sent to market and all the fall gathering of corn, his work load was a bit lighter. But still his winter work went on. He killed hogs and smoked meat, took corn and wheat to the mill, patched old farm buildings, cleaned out stalls, dehorned the cow and on and on. Pa could make baskets, chair bottoms, resole shoes, shoe the mules, make wonderful molasses, tap maple trees, rob the bee hives and a hundred other things.

Pa was very tall as were all the Lewis men. He was the shortest at six feet and two inches. He never had an ounce of fat and loved to walk. He fished in the Cumberland River, a two mile walk. He and a friend kept a fishing boat on the bank and often spent Sundays lazing on the river. He often told me that sometimes he didn’t care if the fish were biting or not. He loved to walk in the woods in his old gum boots. He took no chances in stepping on a venomous snake but wasn’t especially afraid, just cautious. He loved to hunt and only hunted what they would eat. He loved to hunt quail but not much else.

Pa had a long row of grape vines in the kitchen garden. They not only were good for making jelly, but Pa bottled some wine, though not much. He also made some home brew and he even had a bottling machine for keeping it. On hot days, he would drop one bottle down into the old well by a rope and on his way to the house, he would pull that bottle up to drink while he rested on the floor porch for a while.

I thought my Pa was the handsomest, most wonderful man in the whole world and I still judge men by that standard. And I still miss him

If you wish my book, “Going Through the Garden”, a month by month guide to gardening, send a check for $13.50 to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, Ky. I enjoy your calls to 270-522-3632.
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