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The Scoop: Fall is in the air

by SUSAN JONAS

Garden Club of Danville

Can you feel it? Fall is on the way, a Kentuckian’s reward for enduring summer’s heat and humidity. You can even smell it, especially on those early mornings when the temperature has dipped into the 50s and the first brown leaves flutter to the lawn. We had such a cool spring that this summer feels abbreviated. Seems like just a few weeks ago we were filling vases with tulips and daffodils and eating sugar snap peas and home-grown strawberries. Now there are pumpkins and gourds at the Farmers Market.

If you do your grocery shopping at a supermarket, you have an artificial impression of what’s available each season, with out of season fruits and vegetables shipped in from all over the world. People who grow their own food or shop at a farmers market have a better understanding of eating seasonally. It isn’t a new idea. Before global transportation was as speedy and commonplace as it is today, eating seasonally and locally was what everyone did.

Nowadays, it’s how we eat the freshest, healthiest food and support our local farmers.

Photo by Susan Jonas Peter Swanson walks to the Boyle County Farmers Market every Saturday with his mother, Ellen, and baby sister Eloise. He chose an autumn bouquet of mostly orange zinnias and purple celosias to match the pumpkins and gourds on display at the market. The flowers were grown by Margo and Russ Goodwin, who have been selling their flowers at the market for five years.

Just when we began to tire of asparagus every day (yes, that is possible), it was time for the first tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn on the cob, fresh from the field. Now, here come the winter squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apples, and cool weather greens.

At the Boyle County Farmers Market at Danville High School on Saturdays you can also track the seasons by the flowers available from our local flower vendors. If you don’t have the space, time, or inclination to grow your own, you can still have fresh cut garden flowers instead of imported bouquets wrapped in cellophane from florists and grocery stores, welcome as those may be in January.

This year Jessica Merrick of Shooting Star Farm in Forkland joined other familiar flower venders who have been filling our vases for several years. The sweet peas, snapdragons, and iris of May gave way to summer’s colorful riot of zinnias, cosmos, and coreopsis. You’ll still find zinnias at the market, in addition to autumn’s sunflowers, dahlias, and pots of mums. Be sure to leave room for fresh flowers in your shopping bags.

Home gardens are winding down now. Summer flowers are fading away and some natives like bleeding heart and sweet woodruff have already gone dormant. I hope you planted some fall blooming flowers to carry you through until frost. Fall flower gardens can be spectacular, with bold combinations of jewel toned blooms in colors of deep purple, rust, scarlet, and gold, along with blue asters and mistflowers to liven up the bunch. Nature has thoughtfully provided flower colors that mix beautifully with autumn leaves and berries for those of us making flower arrangements.

To have an abundance of fall flowers, you need to plan ahead. They should be planted in spring or early summer. They may bloom late, but they bloom best if they’ve been in the ground all season. Some of our favorites are asters, dahlias, perennial sunflowers, goldenrod, coreopsis, mums, and sedum “Autumn Joy.” For cut flowers, I prefer chrysanthemums that have wintered over from the previous year and grown taller and looser than the compact balls of color you get from potted mums in the fall.

For those of us stuck in the shade, there are abundant foliage plants in rich fall colors. Near the top of my list are coleus plants with their multi-colored leaves that have added deep reds, purples, and lime green to my garden all summer long. They make wonderful fillers for a vase full of autumn flowers.

Celebrate the autumn equinox on September 22 by decorating with a basket filled with traditional autumn symbols: apples, fall wildflowers, grapes, gourds, nuts, Indian corn, and mini pumpkins. You can find them at the farmers market. Fall is one of the easiest times to make pretty table arrangements. You can hardly go wrong by piling colorful gourds and pumpkins in a container with autumn leaves and flowers. For information about the Garden Club of Danville see thegardenclubofdanville.org.