Unlike the other plants in my garden, turf grass has always struggled to get my attention. Compared to my knowledge of food crops and herbaceous perennials, I know next to nothing about turf grasses…and I would prefer to keep it that way. Some would find that hard to believe, but it’s true. Identifying turf is like complex math to me…I can do it, but I don’t want to.

When I look at turf, my eyes only see two types: good turf and bad turf.

I admire the knowledge of plant biologists, especially that group of expert botanists who make me feel like a novice in comparison…those are the people I love to hang around with at any given opportunity to improve my own skills and knowledge. Every time I look up a plant description, a little place in the back of my mind remembers that someone or a group of someones very similar at some point in history discovered my exact plant of interest, describing it in extreme detail and giving it a scientific name for the first time.

When you collect plants, it is rather useful to label and record everything added to the garden. I wish I had started sooner. I did not do this the first few years of starting my current garden, so many of my oldest plants are unknown down to cultivar and remain unlabeled. After a few years, I began making an effort to include a metal identification tag with a waterproof label with every plant that went in the garden as well as creating a spreadsheet I could print the labels from using a label maker.

Watching how plants grow is just fascinating. Like when a terminal bud begins growing in the spring after being dormant, it leaves behind a bud scale scar that encircles the entire twig or branch and is visible to the naked eye. Since each twig makes only one terminal bud per year, you can use these scars to determine the age of a twig or limb by counting the scars back from the tip.

How perfect for Punxsutawney Phil to predict six more weeks of winter on the day when snow was falling heavily in the St Louis Metropolitan. School would have been cancelled when and where I grew up in Indiana on a day like that. But because of COVID-19, snow days for students are coming to be a thing of the past with our increasing ability to switch rapidly to remote learning. Remembering my growing up in the 60s and 70s, one of the local banks maintained a phone service that provided the time and temperature, plus any announcements of a school delay or closing.

What comes to mind when you think of your garden or the landscape in the fall? Not including all the work gardeners do in preparation for the coming winter, sit back and just meditate on all the things you associate with fall. My list was amazingly long and looking at it as a whole, it brought a rather peaceful happiness to me. Leaves played a very big part in my association with fall, as I expect the same will be true for others.

It’s that time of year when eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) start dropping older needles, resulting in a new layer of sound-cancelling padding under trees. The sight of so many browning needles can be alarming though if you are not wise to the true meaning of evergreen. In general, evergreen refers to plants whose leaves (broadleaf, needle-like, scale-like or awl-like) last more than one year before falling. Deciduous plants on the other hand drop all of their leaves, leaving the plant completely devoid of leaves for part of the year.

Hard to believe it’s just four weeks out from the St Louis area’s first median frost date (~October 10), so prepping outdoor perennial container plants for over-wintering has moved higher up on my priority to-do list.  Some are hardy perennials that I just planted in large containers with the intention transplanting them in the garden late summer, leaving enough time to become established before freezing temperatures arrive. 

I really can’t say enough bad things about mulberryweed, a.k.a. hairy crabweed (Fatoua villosa). For me, it has been a weed nightmare that come in on a load of mulch about 10 years ago, and every year since has been a battle to control because I didn’t recognize it for what it was and take action soon enough. Hand weeding or chemical control needs to be done immediately upon detection, and this can’t be stressed enough.

Not all the garden plants in my jungle are polite.

When you have a lot of any one thing, it’s sometimes hard to choose a single favorite, but in the case of tall bearded iris, ‘Edenite’ is the one I most look forward to every season.  Described as sooty red-black with brown beards, this historical 1958 release is still a crowd pleaser.  Unfortunately, it has been blooming rather infrequently the last few years due to shade development since its planting.  The rhizomes keep growing and the patch keeps getting larger, but no blooms.  Given that iris require six to eight hours of full sun during the growing season for best performance, some of