So much happens in the fall garden that you’ll never get bored

Watch for gardening surprises: While many plants go to sleep this season, others are just waking up.

As we move into the holidays, I am keenly aware that it gets harder and harder for me to motivate you to play in the garden.

I get it. You have been moving hoses around all summer, mowing the lawn every week, and now you are sick and tired of it. But I would propose that the beauty of the fall is that you no longer have to deal with the mundane tasks of mowing and watering and can concentrate on the fun stuff: planting bulbs, overhauling your containers for winter interest or even raking leaves.

With its autumn colors, crisp air, damp soil and drying leaves, hanging out in the garden in the fall is very special. The deciduous trees and shrubs take on a whole new personality with their summer clothing shed and their delicate branching patterns revealed.

There are other surprises, too, such as the fall-blooming crocus my wife planted under the fragrant snowbell or the hardy cyclamen under the weeping beech, that have actually been blooming for a month, but we didn’t notice them until the leaves on the Korean wax bells fell off.

So much is happening in the fall garden that I never get bored. While many plants are going to sleep, some are actually waking up.

Winter bloomers like Mahonia “Lionel Fortescue” are pushing spikes of yellow blooms that brighten up my shade border and delight the hummers that are hanging around for the winter.

Fall-blooming camellias (sasanqua varieties and their hybrids) also are flowering now. Their colorful blooms (mostly single or semi-double) in shades of red and pink with splashes of white surrounding a center of bright golden yellow stamens are all set against a backdrop of dark green, glossy foliage.

Skimmia japonica is also in full bloom and, if you are lucky enough to have both male and female plants, you will have bright red berries that are great for holiday decorating.

Speaking of berries, my wife’s beautyberry is covered with the most elegant purple berries this time of year, which look magnificent in the garden, but also on the kitchen table combined with a few sprigs of zebra grass, a fading hydrangea bloom and some seed heads from the Crocosmia “Lucifer.”

Arrangements from the fall garden don’t need to be blousy and outrageously colorful. A simple collection of twigs, berries, blades of ornamental grasses and dried blooms makes a stunning composition. The understatement of it all always speaks to my soul this time of year.

Nature just seems to know what we need after the cacophony of summer passes and the calm of winter approaches. Fall is the perfect transition between these two seasons.

There are so many reasons to get out and enjoy our gardens in the fall. Plants, of course, are at the top of my list, but let’s not forget the incredible intricacies of a dew-laden spiderweb or the brilliance of a sparkling crystalline blanket of frost as the morning sun reflects off its surface.

The smells of decomposing leaves or the thrill of touching the hairy branches of a staghorn sumac never ceases to amaze me. Personally, all of these elements combine to create a spiritual experience that often brings me to the edge of tears. Explore your garden this fall and see if you don’t feel the same way.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnyside

Beautiful hellebores

Attend a free class at 1 p.m. Nov. 4 on the beauty of hellebores at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, go to

Talk to us

More in Life

Jim Jamison and Stephanie Schisler wrote and illustrated "What Would I Be If I Couldn’t Be Me." (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Bothell grandfather brews up a children’s book

Bothell’s Jim Jamison, owner of Foggy Noggin Brewing, wrote “What Would I Be If I Couldn’t Be Me?,” and his daughter, Stephanie Schisler, illustrated it.

The wide sidewalks of the Champs-Elysées invite strolling. (Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli, Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves on the Champs-Elysees, the grand Parisian promenade

With its sprawling sidewalks and well-dressed pedestrians, this grand boulevard is Paris at its most Parisian.

Take care to acclimate your houseplants as you relocate them from the garden to the house. (Getty Images)
It’s time to move those summering houseplants back indoors

It’s a tricky thing to do, however, because light conditions in our homes are different than the shadiest of gardens.

Why mentors and role models are so important

We all can be living examples of integrity, compassion, kindness, commitment and perseverance.

The grille, front bumper, and headlights are newly designed on the 2020 Honda CR-V.
2020 Honda CR-V has styling updates and equipment add-ons

The entry-level LX model joins the other trims with a standard turbo engine and driver-assist technology.

Book-related events in Snohomish County.
Author events and poetry readings around Snohomish County

The listings include Third Place Books, Everett Public Library and Neverending Bookshop events.

Vaccines promise health — and fun — for a family tired of social distancing. (Jennifer Bardsley)
COVID-19 pandemic brings a new appreciation for flu shots

After not leaving the house for weeks, a drive-thu appointment to get an influenza vaccine is an adventure.

The Sauk River rushes by near a popular boat launch area close to White Chuck Mountain off the Mountain Loop Highway, just outside of Darrington. (Daniella Beccaria / Herald file)
Outdoors classes and activities around Snohomish County

The listings include Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest updates and REI Lynnwood workshops.

This red laceleaf Japanese maple is a striking specimen, holding its burgundy-red foliage color though the summer. (Great Plant Pick)
Great Plant Pick: Acer palmatum ‘Tamuke yama,’ red laceleaf Japanese maple

This weeping tree is a striking specimen, holding its burgundy-red foliage color though the summer.

Most Read