A September Walk in the Garden

TODAY, because the sun is shining, because the air is crisp and calm, and because it’s the first official day of autumn, I think a little tour of the garden is in order. Mind taking a walk with me?

Naturally, our tour will begin in the kitchen, where a warm, comforting drink awaits.

The comforting drink in question: Apple cider, simmered to scented perfection with cloves, whole allspice, and sticks of cinnamon. It’s a perfect brew for an autumn afternoon.

It’s also an intoxicating brew. For it is fortified with a sensible amount of dark Jamaican rum.


Swoosh! We are standing at the entrance to the Rose Garden. My shrub roses, quite frankly, looked awful during summer.  But the boxwood and yews thrived — as they always do — without complaint.

At the center of the garden are two weeping ‘Red Jade’ crabapple trees, their branches lit with fruit. I recently clipped a few of the stems for an elegant house bouquet. The remaining fruit is reserved for wintering birds.

Surrounding the garden are upright yews — Taxus hicksii. They are ripening their red, jewel-like berries just now. As with the aforementioned crabapples, the yew berries will be consumed by birds. Unless the squirrels get them first (as they did last year).

Let’s head north now, up the blue-stone path that leads to a grove of white pines. And please note the litter on the path, and the sound of something crunching beneath your feet.

And speaking of feet — I love your Pradas! Hopefully they won’t get scuffed up during our garden tour.

The crunch underfoot comes from myriad acorns. These were dropped by the ancient oak tree that overhangs the path.

We’ve reached the white pines. I cut an opening through this little “forest,” and then laid down a simple stone path. The path leads to a headless statue of Venus de Milo.

As we head west, you’ll notice some mighty arborvitaes to your right. We planted these eight years ago, and my! how they’ve grown. They help to screen the in-ground swimming pool which we will visit shortly.

The headless Venus. You can read about her collision with a lawn mower in this post.

To the statue’s right is a hedge of Thuja ‘Green Giant.’ If you need a quick privacy screen, by all means acquire this evergreen! It grows 3-5 feet per year, and the only care it requires is water during its first season. Thereafter, the shrub takes care of itself.

As we turn the corner past the Thuja hedge, we find ourselves in a clearing. To the left is the Kitchen Garden. To the right is the swimming pool. And in the background is a bunch of weedy trees that are just beginning to acquire some autumn color. Behind the weedy trees is the Woodland Garden, which we won’t be visiting today. But you can see it any time you’d like, just by reading this fascinating article.

At the corner of the Kitchen Garden is a big Viburnum ‘Cayuga.’ This deciduous shrub puts on a fabulous floral show not only in spring, but in autumn, too.

Cayuga’s pinkish-white flowers are strongly perfumed. Don’t believe me? Lean forward and inhale. The scent is pure honey.

Other flowers along the Kitchen Garden’s front border include Nicotiana ‘Fragrant Cloud’…

and Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll.’ Ms. Jekyll is in her second — and final — flush of the season.

Opening the gate to the Kitchen Garden, we are greeted by a forest of ‘Royal Purple’ zinnias. I planted this heirloom variety from seed last spring. Although I love the color, the plant definitely requires staking.

I’m thinking dwarf zinnias are in order for next year. Especially if I can find them in just one color. Most of the miniatures are sold as “mixed.” As for the veggies, there are two crops I’m especially proud of: First, the butternut squash you see pictured above…

And next, the ‘Ace’ bell peppers.

When frost threatened last week, I harvested most — though not all — of the peppers, and turned them into this amazing condiment. 

The Brussels sprouts still have a ways to go. But that’s alright — they can tolerate a number of frosts. As you can see, the little sprouts are emerging in the axils of leaves.

And here is the Pool Garden, with its frame of Canadian hemlock. The hemlock creates an evergreen backdrop for the classical statues we’ve been collecting. Pictured above is a Satyr.

The Satyr, up close. Yes, he’s a lech.

“Autumn” resides in the southeast corner…

While scantily-clad “Summer” observes the water from a northeastern perch.

As for the pool itself, tomorrow it will be shut down for the season.

Shall we head back to the house via the Serpentine Garden? I designed this winding wonder on the steepest hill on the property.

As we begin our descent, we are greeted by the following flowers: sunshine-yellow Coreopsis, above, which I acquired through last year’s winter-sowing efforts

Nicotiana ‘Purple Perfume,’ another winter-sown wonder…

Brilliant yellow Chrysanthemums, which I divide every spring…

And the Cranesbill Geranium ‘Roseanne,’ which just gets better with each passing year.

We are descending the path now, which leads, at the mid-way point, to a curved bench beneath a Yoshino cherry tree. On our left is a hedge of dwarf lilacs, underplanted with Phlox subulata. If you’d like to see this phlox in bloom, be sure to visit me in spring! Or, just have a look at this post.

And if you’d like a more detailed description of the Serpentine Garden, be sure to read this page-turner.

Meanwhile, let’s sit on the bench for a moment and finished our spiked “tea.”

The view from the bench, looking up…

And looking down. On the left is a huge Buddleja (or “Butterfly Bush”), and a little farther down on the right is a pair of Witch Hazel.

The Witch Hazel has already produced its flower buds for next year’s show. These will open in late January or early February regardless of the temperature. The blossoms are spidery, yellow-orange, and heaven-scented.

If you don’t have Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) in your garden, my advice is to obtain at least one shrub. Right away! More pictures and details about this great, great plant.

As we descend the final steps of the Serpentine Garden, we are greeted by red Chrysanthemum ‘Helen’…

And flowering quince ‘Crimson and Gold,’ which has produced oodles and oodles of edible fruit. Well, they are edible if you are willing to boil them a long time. I always leave them for the squirrels and other critters with whom I share this property.

Here is the base of the Serpentine Garden. As you can see, the Baltic ivy I planted on the first terrace has now puddled onto the gravel walk. I kinda like the effect, for it reminds of the window hangings in my entrance hall.  The two pots on the first step contain some of the hardy bulbs that I forced for indoor bloom last winter. Now I’ll plant them outdoors…somewhere.

Well. I hope you enjoyed this little “get away,” no matter how brief. I certainly enjoyed your company. Fortunately your Pradas look just as gorgeous as when you arrived.

Perhaps, in the comments field below, you can tell me how your own garden is holding up now that autumn is officially here.  As always, I love to hear from you.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly email updates.

Related Posts:
Real Monkey Bread
Window Garden, September 2013
How I Prepare My Raised Beds for Winter


  1. Dana Freeman says:

    Love the excellent photos and tour. We just built our home a little over two years ago so we are starting from scratch. Want to get some lilac, and cayuga, and possibly hemlock. We have a vegetable garden established, but working on landscaping and other garden areas, and paths. My hubby just rocked our front step, wired with led lights in the rocks, and it looks great! Our next big project is the pergola. Love the color of your stone, and the way you did your paths. So much to do, but the effort really shows. Thanks so much.

  2. Its all beautiful!

  3. :::::Packing bags::::: I’ll be moving in next Thursday…! (Great job.)

  4. Diane from Boston says:

    Hey, Kevin, very enjoyable. I always love your tours!

    when’s the best time of year to prune arbovitae? We have a bunch, and we don’t want them to get out of hand.

  5. Hi Diane from Boston – Best time to prune arborvitae is in early spring, after the ground has thawed.

  6. myrtle miller says:

    Thank you for the tour. My favorite part is when the path goes downhill and you have that bench perfectly situated. Thank you for not only perfectly possessing the gift of hospitality and whimsical sense of humor but for bringing your garden to the rest of us.

  7. Thanks Kevin! That was both beautiful and hilarious! One question though, did you have an imaginary friend when you were a child? You are just too good at this, even noticing the shoes.

  8. Melissa Horton says:

    Love your tours! I am out of town and already know my garden will be a shambles upon my return.

  9. Living as we do on a steep site, I’m always impressed by your results, Kevin, as I have a pretty good idea how much effort goes into your gardens.

    I’ve just finished a major step forward in the rehab of our soil – tilling to about 10 inches, followed by the addition of a lovely soil blend and a thick dressing of very fine, organic compost. So now the fun begins (as do the rains). Still, I’m thrilled with the prospect of being able to plant again!

    Have a terrific autumn, Kevin, both indoors and out.

  10. What a beautiful garden!
    Thanks a lot for this amazing tour!

  11. Thank you for such a pleasant wake-up this drizzly morning. As always after yet another enjoyable tour, I am coveting your blue stone path. Ah well–Have a lovely day!

  12. Hi there! I found your site when I was looking up information about my Deutzia scabra and then was enticed to have a more in depth look at your blog (which means I just read the first post that came up on your home page!). I loved reading your post and seeing your garden (and beautiful tea cups!). Fabulous post. I did a little yell, too, when I saw that you are in the Hudson Valley. I’m from the town of Poughkeepsie, but currently living in Ireland. Such a small world! Dana

  13. What a beautiful relaxing stroll! Thanks for inviting us. Your place is just amazing.

  14. It looks great! My roses had a rough season as well, except for the fairies and the Elsie May.

    I’m always a little sad looking at all the falling leaves and the decline in my garden. But I did plant a large, new shrub border and am anxious to see how it looks in the spring.

  15. In the picture where you are descending the serpentine garden and mention the Lilacs on the left, what is the red berried shrub on the right? Another Crabapple?

  16. Instead of the tall varieties, try one of the Zinnia Profusion Hybrid series (white, orange, cherry) next year. This is a small mounding variety with exceptional disease resistance that comes quickly from seed. Bonus – no need to deadhead! Seeds are readily available on line. Thanks for the stroll. I’m off to make Monkey Bread!

  17. I agree with Jude- try the Profusion series of Zinnias. I prefer the cherry myself. They make a volleyball size mound by late August and covered with 1.5″ diameter blooms. Thanks for the tour by the way, it was lovely. We haven’t had a frost yet here, so I’m pushing my luck with tomatoes and beans still growing in my vegie beds. At this point it’s about 1 week past our typical first frost date.

  18. Always love your garden tours. Next month, I am purchasing my own home and have saved all your blogs, so that I may use them as a guide for my own creations. Do you have ant advise on asparagus plants? I have a box of 40 that I need to get planted. I’m wondering if planting it now would be okay… or do I need to wait for next Spring?
    LOVE your recipes also. I have been on a search for those 3 tier dishes, so that I too can create a lovely brunch in the garden. 🙂

  19. Thank you for that fabulous walk through your garden. Your spoils of butternut squash and peppers are amazing! The walkways are wonders, and I did kick off the Prandas just for fun! Thank you for the nice cider; let’s get another cup! 🙂

  20. Cathy Haynes says:

    Thanks for the tour! As always, I love your house AND garden tours! You have THE PERFECT place!!!

  21. cynthia shultz says:

    always love the tours and the drinks that go along with them. Cynthia

  22. Kevin, I envision a water feature on the side of a very small mound in my backyard. Nothing fancy, no fish in a pond – only enough water to provide for water to circulate and flow over the rocks that I’ll place there. Do you have any ideas or photos to guide me through my project?. Have been shopping at Lowe’s and they seem to have plenty of pumps, etc.
    Thank you for the beautiful gardens you share with followers on the web,

  23. Thank you for the sensible amount of rum, we would not want to stumble on the path in our Pradas now would we? Lovely gardens, enjoy the beautiful Fall season!

  24. ginger porter says:

    Where’s the recipe for the amazing red bell condiment you mentioned with the fabulous picture crowded with peppers? Your info is always on the spot. Thanks, gin

  25. Sheri Svyerson says:

    Thanks so much. One thing I miss so much living in AZ is the gardening I did (flowers, shrubs) in Idaho. I can still grow stuff here, just not the same things. The flowers were so real that when you said “lean forward and smell” I actually started to do it!

  26. Oh, good grief think I shall start over after seeing YOUR GARDEN!

  27. Thanks Kevin. I really enjoyed your garden tour (as always). My flower beds have not fared well this year. We have had such a drought. I just hope my plants come back next year.

  28. Thank you so much for your great tour of your gardens, what a pleasure it was. The Witch Hazel bush caught my eye . Thank You again.

  29. Naomi Shelton says:

    Lovely tour, Kevin. But I was so nervous carrying that vintage tea-cup of cider–I was sure I would stub my Prada and the cup would crash and break into a million pieces! I feared this scenario, probably, because I did stub a boot (not a Prada) and land face first on the sidewalk a week ago while chasing the 2 1/2-yr.-old twin grandsons! My face has been the shade of purple that would look fabulous on a dahlia, but not so good on moi. I am healing tho’ and although I’ve been quite housebound (vanity) I certainly am glad I got out and took that fall garden tour with you! Thanks again!

  30. Juanita Trent says:

    Thank you for the walk. It was all fantastic. What beautiful peppers.

  31. what is that wonderful bush with red berries across from the dwarf lilacs? Man that is pretty.!
    I love the Sept blooms . Everything always seem to finish with a big bang…. and then comes dreary winter.. ugh

  32. Sara and Trudi: The red-berried plant in the Serpentine Garden is indeed a crabapple tree. It’s the dwarf variety ‘Sargeant.’

    Naomi Shelton – Sorry to hear about your fall! Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  33. Maria Locatell says:

    You always so inspire me! Thanks so much for sharing – love the pics!

  34. A lovely tour — thanks so much. I needed that refreshing walk after our long hot spell here in Florida. However, methinks you’d better keep an eye on “Summer” — the look on her face made me smile. Are you sure she hasn’t been imbibing in your spiked cider ?!

  35. Denise in Colorado says:

    What a fun tour! I’m on a steep lot so it’s inspiring to see what can be accomplished… I wonder if Witch Hazel will grow in zone 5? I’ll check it out! It was in astringent I used to put on my face! I’m dreading Winter already but your garden helps me stop worrying and enjoy the Fall! Thanks for the cider, Kevin! 😉

  36. Jeanette Cobb says:

    How I love reading your blog. My early years were spent in the Berkshires before I moved to Georgia. So interesting to read the early Fall changes in your garden. Your classic garden and ornamentation is similar to mine. Conifers have become readily available around Atlanta and remind me of New England. I’m a big fan of arborvitae,dwarf conifers and big boxwoods. Continue posting your recipes. Always simple and tasty.Thanks!

  37. Cathy in Cleveland says:

    I too had a terrible rose season. Do you have any suggestions for moss choking my grass? Any winter remedies in preparation for the spring?

  38. Each week I look forward to your wonderful news letter. NEVER disappointed and always thrilled with the new recipes, new to me plant descriptions and the lovely pictures and useful information. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to share the beautiful part of your life with me.

  39. oh Kevin, *sigh*…I just love our little visits. Touring your garden is such a joy and boy howdy, those peppers and squash are amazing! From South-east Texas, I am jealous of your weather, at least until it snows. Needless to say, it’s still hot hot hot but we’re getting there. Thanks for the tea!

  40. Tracey Santi says:

    Thank you, Kevin. Although I’m not wearing pradas, and my two very young children are running around my living room with their early morning energy spurt, I find my self breathing in you beautiful photos. A gracious host….I hope you have a wonderful autumn! P.S. can’t WAIT to try your monkey bread!!!

  41. Kelly & Ted says:

    Just beautiful, Kevin! We scaled back our gardening this year, but we have a few nice surprises going on in the yard. The white irises bloomed late in our yard on the east side–They are at peak right now. On the produce front, the raspberries are amazing in their second production. And some wild tomatoes from two years ago appear to be a really hardy Brandywine hybrid–They are ripening on the ground disease- (and bug-) free.

  42. Janet Ortega says:

    Thank you Kevin. I really needed to get away from AZ for just a few brief moments or hours in my mind. We had a flash flood come through my property a couple of weeks ago bringing mud and water into my house. We are now trying to redo the house with a “green” laminate and low or no VOC paint after we get the drywall in. Right now half the carpet and padding is ripped out and 1/3 of the drywall is cut out of the whole east side of the house and half of our belongings are in the garage. No time to even think about a garden sigh. So thank you for your tour if only for a brief moment or hours in my mind lol.

  43. Witth havin so much content do you ever run into
    any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it seems a
    lot off it iss popping it upp all over the web without my permission. Do you know any
    ways to help protect against content from being ripped off?
    I’d really appreciate it.

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