I absolutely love autumn in Florida. The fall season ushers in a great time to go a little wild and decorate the home and garden like one cannot really pull-off in the summer (basically American flags are about the only decoration that can be used in during the summer holidays).
But fall – now is the time to start going a little crazy with yard decor. First I must mention perennial Chrysanthemums. Many people in Florida treat mums as throw away plants. They buy them in pots from the garden center, watch them flower a few dozen times then throw them out. Actually, in Florida, with proper care, mums can be kept growing and blooming for years. Chrysanthemums grow best and produce the most flowers if they are planted in full sun. If planted in a spot with partial sunlight they tend to get tall, leggy and bloom much less often. Mums also appreciate regular fertilization, irrigation and pruning. To keep them blooming their best, regular deadheading is recommended. Deadheading is simply the practice of snipping off spent (dead) blooms to encourage the growth of new ones
There are hundreds of varieties of Chrysanthemums (see the Wikipedia article Chrysanthemum for more information), giving you a multitude of options for height, color, flower size and time of bloom.
With a few plants to start, it is also relatively easy to propagate many new plants to fill the garden. Simply remove the lower half of the leaves from a 4” to 6” healthy, fresh cutting using a sharp clean knife. Dip about 3/4 inch of the cut end into a rooting hormone such as Roottone® or Hormonex®. Insert the cutting about one inch deep into a pot full of sterile moist sand, vermiculite or sphagnum moss then place your potted cuttings in a bright spot (but not in full sun) until roots and new leaves form on the cuttings. Carefully remove the new plants from their pots and plant out in the garden.
Chrysanthemums should be divided every three to five years to avoid overcrowding and to promote maximum flowering. They should be divided in the spring when new growth appears. To divide mums lift the entire clump and separate the plants with a sharp, clean knife or spade.
Remove all dead and diseased plant parts. Replant the divisions as soon as possible in a loose, well drained, rich organic soil. Chrysanthemums should periodically be moved to new locations to prevent fungal and other diseases in the plants, but if this is not possible the plants’ old soil should be dug out and replaced with fresh, new potting soil.
Decorations are fun to place out in the fall garden. As you can see from my photos I have my Jack-o-lantern, tin scarecrow, boo-ghost and black-light strings out. I replaced the regular light bulbs in my overhead light with flicker-bulbs (for an added spooky touch) and made a life-size scarecrow with bamboo rods and some old clothes that I “scared-up”. I did not have hay or straw to stuff my big scarecrow with so I cut some lemon-grass from the clumps in my backyard to stuff him. An added touch was to buy a solar powered spotlight to aim at him for a spooky glow.
A couple more touches are the mini-skeleton I have hanging on the front door now (usually a seasonal wreath hangs there) and on Halloween night when we are handing out candy to the kids I burn 3 Kings Incense for a creepy scent in the air (and to ward off mosquitoes and maybe evil spirits). Some of the parents recognize the scent as frankincense and myrrh church incense, but it totally freaks-out the kids ;-). OOPs! I almost forgot to mention the Black-Kat oil torch I made from a used wine bottle (instructions to make one here) that I have flaring on the corner of the house.
Hey, have fun decorating you Autumn Garden!