Sometimes my garden deigns to reward me with pictures like these, not too often, mind you, we wouldn't want me to start expecting them or anything!
I will not lie, just like any glamour shot the picture is carefully deliberate, from the camera angle, to the lighting, the time of day, and keeping unattractive features out of the frame, but it's still gratifying to stumble upon a view like this in my obstinate and chaotic September garden.
Usually at this time of year the roses get a second wind. Even the once bloomers like the rugosas sport the occasional flower. This however is Morden Blush.
The protagonists are stonecrops, catmint, irises, an array of hostas, dead nettle, Blue-eyed Mary, and plumbago.
If anybody was wondering how long it takes a perennial garden to reach maturity, this flower bed is almost two years old, and not all the perennials were planted the first year.
Most of the plant material came from dividing established plants. The fall blooming perennials were divided in spring and the spring blooming perennials were divided in fall. For the summer blooming perennials I just picked a time when they were not in bloom and the weather was not extreme.
A young flower bed will outperform an established one during its first years, due to the advantages of virgin soil, plentiful space and the young plants' drive to expand and produce offspring as soon as possible.
What gives the final polish to my suddenly inflated gardening ego? The timing of the picture - our dreary season of melancholy, semi-dry sticks and faded blossoms, and the location of the picture - a spot that's mostly in the shade. The garden sure loves me this year!
September is the month to expand your flower beds or make changes to established ones: the weather does not stress the plants and as they slow down their metabolic processes to prepare for dormancy they don't mind the diminished amount of nutrients that comes with growing new root systems.
Root division is an easy way to multiply your plant stock and it works for almost all perennials, with a few exceptions. For instance, hellebores and lady's mantle don't like their roots disturbed, whereas daylilies, crane's bill, hostas, irises and coral bells take to new places like weeds.
The plants will tell you when they need dividing: they start looking overcrowded, their bloom suffers and sometimes the clump center dies out, leading to a donut shape growth pattern. You don't have to dig up the entire root ball, just separate a small section with the spade; this way you won't disturb the plant more than absolutely necessary.
If you want to plant seeds for perennials and frost hardy annuals, relocate mature plants, or start cuttings of your favorite unpatented roses (see mason jar method here), do it before the winter. These plants are adapted to go through freezes and their overall performance improves when you provide them with conditions close to their natural life cycles.
I don't recommend planting perennials you never grew before in the fall. In my experience they have too much trouble adjusting to new a growing medium and a different climate while preparing for dormancy.