September 2022


Highsmith, C. M., photographer. (2011) Fall in Connecticut. United States Connecticut, 2011. October. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012631623/

Ask most New Englanders what their favorite season is, and you’ll get the quick and enthusiastic answer, “Fall.”  Summer’s heat and humidity finally fades, and the cleaner, clear air of autumn takes its place.  It’s Harvest time too. Many gardeners are picking their summer crops while tending their cool weather ones. And of course, there’s the colorful beauty of pumpkins, mums, and cornstalks adorning many house porch thresholds, often set off by a fall-themed door-wreath welcoming the autumn season.  But, for all these welcome signals of the season, the most beloved sign of fall to all New Englanders is the fall foliage that surrounds us. The colors of red, gold, orange, and purple tree foliage set against the green grass and shrubbery gives a feeling of warmth that perfectly balances the chill in the air. It’s a picture-perfect reminder that winter is not far away.

Highsmith, C. M., photographer. (2011) First Congregational Church, Litchfield, Connecticut. Litchfield United States Connecticut, 2011. October. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012631566/

Many of us enjoy the foliage season through hiking, biking or just viewing it from the comfort of home, but my favorite way to see the foliage is to grab my husband and throw our puppies, Callie and Jasper in the car. With a cup of our favorite coffee and the sound of classical music playing softly in the background, we put on our best highway patience and set off on our annual foliage drive, becoming “leaf peepers” for a day. Our favorite place to see the fall foliage is up in Litchfield County, one of the many in-state foliage routes we found through the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s website: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Forestry/Foliage/Fall-Foliage-Driving-Routes

Highsmith, C. M., photographer. (2011) Fall trees in Connecticut. United States Connecticut, 2011. October. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012631687/

We usually officially begin our peeping in Litchfield itself, sometimes stopping for a quick snack at one of the quintessential New England town’s welcoming eateries. Then we follow the winding road through the Northwest Hills. We enjoy taking in the views, no matter what kind of weather our peeping day brings.  I love seeing the leaves right after a rain when the tree bark is dark, making the color of the leaves pop in the contrast. Of course, a Connecticut fall foliage drive through Litchfield County is not complete without seeing the state’s last covered bridge in West Cornwall. Spanning 172 feet across the Housatonic River, it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and still carries cars safely from West Cornwall to Sharon. 

Highsmith, C. M., photographer. (2011) Cornwall bridge in Connecticut. United States Connecticut, 2011. September. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2012630490/

This year the peak time to see the foliage in Connecticut will be Oct 10th. But there are many websites that offer an animated map that forecasts when other areas of New England will show their peak foliage color. No matter where you like to see fall in New England, I hope you can take time to see this beautiful masterpiece Mother Nature has created. I know I will, this year, and God willing, for many years to come.

https://www.npr.org/2022/09/14/1122657153/fall-leaves-peak-map

Marie Woodward

Full moon maples over 111 years old at Harkness Memorial State Park

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

The end of September is here- today marks the autumnal equinox- so we are past the point of no return as far as summer goes. To be sure, this summer was excessively hot and dry, and I am not going to miss it too much, but I do love the colors of flowers, foliage textures and bird and animal activity that make summer an especially lively time. A favorite place to visit for me is Harkness Memorial State Park- shoreline, marshes, gardens and interesting buildings and plants can be found here.

Salt marsh fleabane – a late summer bloomer in the salt marshes of Harkness memorial State Park

Recent rains have brought on the appearance of wild mushrooms and other fungi. On a recent hike in the deep woods, may sister and I came across several trees that had their trunks covered with icicle-like new fruiting bodies of some sort of toothed fungi. Perhaps they are the bear’s head tooth fungus Hericium americanum or the Hericium coralloides, also known as comb tooth or coral tooth fungus. Time will tell which ones they are when these fruiting bodies reach maturity. We will check on them periodically.

Hericium ssp. toothed fungus mass not yet mature on a living tree
Close-up of Hericium ssp. mushroom showing developing teeth

Boletes, that have pores rather than gills, and puffballs, which have neither structures, are good finds now. I bring a small mirror that I can slide under caps to see if the mushrooms have gills, pores or teeth. This is helpful when trying to identify most capped fungi.

Bolete showing yellow pores under cap and reticulated stalk where it joins the cap.

Tobacco is being harvested now, and the tobacco barns have opened boards on their sides that help the leaves to dry slowly. As the leaves dry and turn yellow, the smell of unlit cigars fills the air surrounding these barns, and it is actually not a pungent but rather a sweet aroma that almost makes me like cigars- long as they are not lit up.

Tobacco barn and water tower

While checking out one of my gardens last week, there was a not so sweet smell that led to the discovery of a stinkhorn fungus among some perennials. While they are distinctive looking and colorful those attributes cannot overcome the fetid aroma of these fungi.

One species of an aptly named stinkhorn fungus

In the same garden was a monarch chrysalis that should have a its butterfly emerge any day now. This is the first chrysalis I have found in any of my gardens although many monarch caterpillars have been  here. They just pupate somewhere else, except for this fellow.

Monarch butterfly chrysalis

On a trip to Milford, there were quite a few yellow-crowned night herons, most of which were juveniles. Normally denizens of the Southern areas of the Atlantic coast, they do stray north as far as Minnesota. Also in the area was a Jetson- era- like apartment complex for purple martins, which by now have flown the coop.

Jetson era- like purple martin houses in Milford

Apples are abundant at farm and fruit stands, as are pumpkins, winter squash and other wonderful things. The peanut pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima ‘Galeux d’Eysine’) is an heirloom pumpkin easily identified by its outward appearance that looks as if peanuts have been glued on its pink-toned rind. These growths are caused by the excess sugar that has built up in its flesh. The peanut pumpkin is believed to be a cross between the Hubbard squash and an unknown variety.

Galeux d’Eysine peanut pumpkin

Dragonflies that migrate will be gone as temperatures start to permanently drop. Day trips like going on the Chester ferry across the Connecticut River and seeing Gillette Castle on the hillside are fun. As foliage starts to change, hiking and country drives can get a little more interesting. Migrating birds give a little action to the landscape, especially where fruits and seeds are abundant. Soon it will be time for slowing down a little bit, but not yet.

Native Virginia creeper berries are a favorite of migrating birds
Dragonfly, perhaps Aeshna species
Gillette castle as seen from the Chester-Hadlyme ferry looks similar to a soupy sand castle

If you visit farms and farm stands, there may be some interesting signs- sometimes painted on an old pick-up truck.

Pamm Cooper

I don’t want to depress anyone, but its almost over. Winter is coming, and it will come fast, thereby ending our beautiful growing weather. We can enjoy the last few days of warm weather before the nights start getting significantly cooler. Fairly soon, when temps start dipping below 50oF, we should be bringing in our houseplants. Not everything that beautified our yard all summer needs to fall victim to Old Man Winter, however. Some plants can winter over nicely and be saved for next year.

This unique geranium with beautiful dark leaves would make a great houseplant over the winter. Photo by mrl2022.

The first thing to understand is that you will be going from one extreme to another. The amount of solar radiation outside compared to what is inside is literally going from one end of the spectrum to the other. A brightly lit window, even if sunny, does not really compare to unfiltered direct sun. Fluorescent or LED light fixtures are great, but they need to be close to the plants (right above, nearly touching). The more lights the better. There are higher powered artificial lights available (like high intensity discharge, sodium lights, metal halide, etc.), but these are not something seen in the common home. Either way, leaves are adapted to the light they are accustomed to, so when going from one extreme to another, you will probably lose some. The best example of this is buying a pothos at a greenhouse or home improvement store, then bringing it home. Leaf loss is normal, especially in the lower/shaded leaves. The plants still look nice, but they are much thinner. If your plant’s journey to the inside is going from shade outside to bright window inside, that generally is not too bad and leaf loss may be minimal. 

These nice-looking houseplants will certainly drop some leaves as they adjust to the lower light levels in your home. Expect the Neon Pothos (left) to lose a lot of the leaves near the base of the pot. Photo by mrl2022

There are a number of hitchhikers that can enter our home when we bring our plants inside. The first, and worst, is the mosquito. If your tray has some water in it, then you might accidentally introduce these into your home. They won’t last too long, but you will wake up with some annoying itchy bumps! Spiders are the next most common. They are normally good, and eat some pests that like our plants, but their webs can get annoying. Their presence triggers many horror-movie like reactions in most people as well. Earwigs are another annoying little critter.  Their pincers on the back end look intimidating. They usually do not do too much damage to your plants. Avoid overwatering the plant which will allow them a moist space in which to survive. One of the most interesting visitors I ever had was a frog! Luckily, I was able to capture him and release him back outside. Usually frogs or toads can be spotted if you carefully inspect your plant. They are more likely to be found under the saucer or pot than inside of it.

Some of my favorite out-for-the-summer plants are banana, various citrus, and fig trees. These do not need a ton of light over the winter either. I like to place them in a cool basement under one light and water sparingly. The first chance I get to move them out in the spring I take it. I like to freshen the potting mix they are planted in and add some fertilizer at that time as well.  They tolerate this type of cultivation fabulously.

In addition to bringing in houseplants, there are some of our annuals that can make fine additions to the home. My absolute favorite are the geraniums. Many times throughout history, these plants were kept in greenhouses or conservatories year-round. A friend of mine said she likes to bring in some coleus. Both of these plants are rather expensive, and it might be nice to save some for next year. There are a number of people that like to overwinter their pepper plants. I find that the best for this are the really hot ones that seem to grow slowly like the habanero. The following year you will have more peppers than you know what to do with. For a number of years, I brought in a large, not-so-hardy rosemary plant.

There are some very pretty plants which just do not seem to do well indoors. The first that comes to mind is the calibrachoa. Although beautiful outside, they seem to struggle indoors. They are not very forgiving if they get too dry. They easily and almost always suffer from western flower thrips as well. I really do not want to deal with spraying pesticides indoors all winter. The same story is true for petunias. Most bedding plants are best left outside – purchase new ones in the spring. Another pest that you need to watch out for are aphids. There are many species of all different colors. If a few sneak in, they can quickly reproduce asexually. The females essentially clone themselves.

Although beautiful and still going strong, calibrachoa generally does not do very well indoors, and is prone to a number of insect pests including western flower thrips. Photo by mrl2022.

No matter what you bring in from outside, I recommending isolating it from your regular indoor houseplants for a few weeks. This is best done in a separate room with the door closed. Any trouble should present itself by then. After the quarantine period, your plants may become a part of your regular collection, or you might simply set them up under some lights in the basement.  Be careful with watering. Cold and soggy soil are a perfect recipe for disease. You don’t have to wait too long before it is spring again! Keep the plants out of real drafty areas that favor the development of diseases as well. 

The last piece of advice is that you may not want to bring in the entire plant. For year I kept my geranium collection going by taking a few cuttings of each plant. These overwintered nicely, took up less space, and required less care. I could fit my whole collection under a few lights.  By the time the spring rolled around, I had nice plants with strong root system ready for a pot. Figs can be grown in this way too (or you might simply want more fig trees).

A mixed collection of houseplants and annuals, many of which will be brought inside for the winter. Photo by mrl2022.

By bringing in some of your favorite annuals, it might help ward off the winter blues. It could save you a little bit of money in the spring, or simply allow you to expand an existing collection of plants. I wonder how many geranium varieties I could have if I just took a few cuttings in each fall? The following spring, I could buy additional varieties. This kind of thinking makes for a large plant collection!

Matt Lisy

While I really, truly should not be encouraging more travel (especially if it relies on fossil fuels), I can’t help suggest that anyone finding themselves anywhere near Booth Bay, Maine take a side trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden (CMBG). It is a refreshing site for your eyes and for your souls. Rarely do we get the chance to stroll in such beautiful surroundings for hours and hours. The mission of this fairly young botanical wonder (it opened in 2007) is to inspire meaningful connections among people, plants and nature, and that it does.

CMBG is the largest botanic garden in New England made up of 295 acres of which 17 have been made into some of the most charming and awe-inspiring gardens championing native Maine plants that I, and probably you, have ever seen. The concept for this botanical garden began in 1991 when a small group of mid-coast Maine residents had a dream of building a world class public garden. Sixteen years later, CMBG opened and has been a top U.S. botanical destination ever since.

Coincidentally, 16 individual garden sites are contained in this marvel, each having its own backstory and unique plantings. Some of my favorites are included in this posting. I’m betting that one of the most popular gardens is the Native Butterfly and Moth House. This consists of a 2,160 square foot Gothic style hoophouse with a planting scheme fit to support moths and butterflies throughout their life cycles. Visitors have the opportunity to observe these vital insects from birth through metamorphosis into adult butterflies or moths. Surrounding gardens are whimsical yet offer nectar and food plants for adults and caterpillars (larvae).

Butterfly House at Coastal Maine Botanic Garden. Photo by dmp2022

The Great Lawn was modeled after 19th century landscape parks and creates a sense of openness amid the surrounding forested areas. The Lerner Garden of the 5 senses is less than an acre in size but the path winds it way through plants and sights that delight the sense of smell, hearing, sight, touch and taste (please don’t eat the daisies). Slater Forest Pond Garden was built on a low lying site perfect for a pond adding more life to the gardens with aquatic creatures.

A gift from the Burpee Foundation funded the Burpee kitchen garden that was started in 2006. It provides the chefs at the Kitchen Garden Café with herbs, vegetables, fruits and edible flowers for their culinary creations. Visitors get to see a choice selection of many food producing plants tucked neatly into raised beds with a cooling fountain centerpiece.

Burpee Kitchen Garden. Photo by dmp2022.
Fountain centerpiece in Kitchen Garden. Photo by dmp2019.

A favorite of children (young and old) is the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden. I love the tool arch and the little shed with a green roof. Apparently this 2 acre parcel of woods, ponds and theme gardens was inspired by several of Maine’s childrens’ book authors including E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web).

Entrance to Children’s Garden. Photo by dmp2019.

On a hot summer day, the Haney Hillside Garden is cool and soothing. It features 3 terraces linked by switchback trails on a steep, rocky hillside. Paths lead past the water and moss terraces and at the bottom sits a subtle, yet perfectly situated, large glass orb created by New York sculptor, Henry Richardson.

Glass orb in Haney Hillside Garden. Photo by dmp2022.

Other gardens include the Cleaver Lawn, the Arbor Garden, Founder’s Grove, Vayou Meditation Garden, the Shoreline Trail and Landing, the Giles Rhododendron and Perennial Garden and one can’t forget the Fairy House Village where visitors are welcome to create shelters and other dwellings for these tiny, mythical creatures. According to the sign for this garden, the tradition of building fairy houses began in the woods of nearly Monhegan Island.

Fairy House Village. Photo by dmp2022

As if these absolutely gorgeous gardens, statuary, sculptures, water features and hardscapes aren’t enough to take it, five giant trolls await discovery by you. They are mammoth recycled wood creations by the Danish artist, Thomas Dambo. His trolls are found around the world (www.trollmap.com) and convey a message of sustainability as well as one of global connections. Our actions affect everyone else on the planet and we need to cultivate a sense of care for all our natural resources and fellow inhabitants, especially with all the havoc climate change is creating throughout the earth.

One of Thomas Dambo’s trolls. Photo by dmp2022.

As Guardians of the Seeds, the trolls are there to teach us and reinforce the importance of the Maine woods but really about all trees. We know trees as purveyors of shade, carbon storage units, able to prevent erosion and filter air and water but did you know that trees provide homes for 50% of the planet’s land-dwelling animals? Or did you know that right now there are about 3 trillion trees in a world of almost 8 billion people – that’s about 375 trees per person. Not a lot when you think about it. Trees are essential for healthy ecosystems that keep us alive.

Guardian the Seeds – another Troll by Thomas Dambo. Photo by dmp2022.

Good stewards of this earth can follow the teachings of the trolls and plant more trees, consume only what you need, and encourage others to become more aware of our dependency on the natural world and treat it with the respect it deserves. The future of this earth really does depend on everyone’s actions.

Dawn P.