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Master Gardener: Fall gardening notes

Grasses are heading off, mums are starting to cover with blooms; asters aren’t far behind in their fall show. Beautyberry displays its gaudy purple berries. (I have the white variety also, abundant with fruit.) The A.H.S. lists four desirable plants for fall color in a recent edition: red spider lily, Miscanthus sinensis or silver grass, bush clover (lespedeza) and Patrinia (blooms similar to goldenrod’s). One I think they overlooked was Cardinal Flower, from the genus Lobelia. According to Carl Hunter’s wildflower handbook, there are six species in the state. Like butterfly weed, you don’t notice this specimen as much because farming practices like bush hogging and mowing to make hay keep many plants from making it to maturity. The eye-catching cardinal-red plant I spotted in a ditch on Hwy. 197 the other day deserved closer inspection. Cardinal flower usually grows to three feet but this one was over four feet tall. The plant prefers a moist area and tolerates some shade. At first I thought it was liatris. The color stood out prominently against the white of boltonia and yellow of tickseed sunflowers. Another fall favorite is wild ageratum or mist flower, with its pinkish-violet blooms - one of the shorter members of the Eupatorium family.

September brings the nationwide observance of National Public Lands Day. Volunteers such as Boy and Girl Scouts will be enlisted to clear trails, build bridges and plant native trees. To find out how you can get involved, call 202-261-6478. Among other activities, volunteers will plant up to one million trees to honor the anniversary of “Roosevelt’s Tree Army”.

Once considered a garden intruder, moss and its cultivation in the landscape is becoming increasingly popular. Native mosses that are easy to locate and grow include flat fem moss, juniper haircap moss and purple horn-tooth moss. To have success with mosses, keep the following in mind: Provide a moist, shady habitat with acid soil. Keep the growing area free of weeds. Encourage existing moss. Moss can be introduced to a rocky area by application of a blended liquid mix of soil, water, buttermilk, gel powder and ground-up moss.

Get outdoors and have a great week!

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