Starting with a black thumb.
I am a complete novice gardener. Before moving to Delaware, Ohio
and buying our first house, Scott and I were apartment dwellers where I promptly killed a variety of potted plants. My mom frequently jokes about how all of her indoor plants die unless she names them after someone she hates. Needless to say, the idea of keeping the current landscaping around our house thriving, let alone planting anything new in my 30ft by 30ft backyard, has been quite daunting.
I desperately want to be a good gardener. I have visions of a cottage-y wonderland with beautiful flowers my girls will frolic among, observing butterflies and sweet baby birds. We will relax in the soft grass and (somehow through the black walnut trees hanging over us) watch the clouds float by. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to do this. So, I have called in reinforcements.
Learning from the Locals
I have had two local master gardeners offer me tips and advice over the past year. One has come into my yard and help me think about the best way to lay out the land, so to speak. Since I am not Ohio-native, many plants I remember from my childhood simply won’t live and especially won’t thrive with our Midwestern winters. Kris introduced me to some new plants and helped me picture an arrangement that I will work to put in place over the next few years.
The second master, Melissa Neill, the Garden Mentor offered me advice on foundation plants and how to care for what was planted before we bought the house. She can also help with garden design and garden problem solving. She is a wealth of information, and a great resource for all of us in Delaware. Ms. Neill has graciously shared three tips for us all to start getting our yards in shape this fall and therefore to be ready for next spring!
Quick tips to prepare for fall
1. If you have roses, do NOT trim them anymore! Leaving the hips on signal to the plant that it is time to stop growing for the season and prepares them to bud next year.
Also, there are many plants which will flower next year on the stalks which grew during the summer this year (called “old growth” versus the “new growth” stalks and branches that will grow and then bud next spring). They should not be trimmed anymore either, or you may not get any blooms. These include spring bloomers such as lilacs, rhododendron, forsythia and mophead or lacecap hydrangeas.
2. Trim non-flowering shrubs and bushes now. And when trimming bushes and hedges, always keep the top of the bush slightly more narrow than the bottom, otherwise the top branches will shade the bottom and keep them from growing properly. Wait until spring to trim any holly or other broadleaf evergreen.
3. For a fun fall flower you can plant now, try the Clara Curtis Daisy. It’s actually a chrysanthemum, but is more hardy to our area (meaning they will last through the winter and bloom again next year) than the traditional mums you can find at the grocery store. The Clara Curtis can be found at a local nursery or through a catalog.
Melissa Neill, the Garden Mentor can be reached at or 740.972.0452 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please share any of your own fall lawn and landscaping tips! We’d love to see what Delaware is going to grow this season!