SingeR: October in the garden — Fragrance, fruit and musings |

SingeR: October in the garden — Fragrance, fruit and musings

Annual morning glory towers above its neighboring plants,
Submitted by Carolyn Singer |

Picking apples one recent warm afternoon, the sweet fall fragrance of the nearby silverberry caught my attention. Mid-October marks this yearly passage into autumn.

There will be many weeks ahead of the silverberry’s powerful scent. I noticed it when only a few of the thousands of buds had opened.

Each flower is tiny, off-white with very small copper dots echoing the pattern on the silvery green leaves. Buds suggest tiny lanterns.

As I approached the shrub to inhale the lovely scent, quail flew deeper into its sheltering branches.

Growing in the partial shade of a golden oak, silverberry (Elaeagnus pungens) thrives with no irrigation. With the drought conditions of the past few winters, it shows no stress. An evergreen shrub, silverberry can get quite large, 20 feet in spread and over 12 feet in height.

Height and spread may also be determined with pruning. A perfect screen.

The cultivar ’Maculatum’ has golden leaves. Elaeagnus ebbingei is similar to E. pungens, but more upright in growth habit, with ‘Gilt Edge’ having a golden yellow edge to the leaves.

All forms of the fragrant silverberry are water-efficient, needing no irrigation once established. Afternoon shade benefits all the species and cultivars, especially those with gold in the leaves.

Deer browse lightly on young plants, so protect them for the first couple of years. Now that my silverberries are older, even with new growth well within reach, deer rarely sample the foliage.

Many of the midsummer raspberries were damaged by the heat. My granddaughter, here for a visit before heading off to college, commented that the berries were small. As soon as the summer temperatures dropped a bit, the berries were larger. Harvest has been good for weeks.

I have been hearing from readers whose gardens struggled this summer. With the heat, soil vitality plays an essential role in the vigor of all plants. In gardens where the soil microbial activity is high, plants can usually endure more stress, including reduced irrigation and prolonged heat.

The soil in my edible garden is very good, but there is always room for improvement. This year I added Sustane 4-6-4, a product from Rare Earth I had never tried. OMNI certified, this is a supplement for organic gardens, promoted as adding nutrients and enhancing soil microbial activity.

The vigor of my edible garden must be an indicator of its worth. I would hope every year is this successful.

I am usually pleased to get two crops of tomatillos, but this year there will be a third. Friends and family who covet my roasted tomatillo salsa will be very pleased. Its combination of tomatillos, white onions, garlic, and serrano peppers, all roasted to perfection, create a salsa in high demand.

Mulching my vegetables reduced water requirements. Not only does the decomposing wheat or oat straw hold the moisture in the soil, it also attracts the earthworms. By fall the straw is easy to cultivate into the soil with a three or four-tine cultivator.

One of my successes that surpassed expectations was the mass of ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glories now towering over all the nearby vegetables. In May I laid two 12-foot bamboo posts on the ground side by side, eighteen inches apart. Securing fine wire across the upper three feet, I then placed them upright with rebar posts to anchor them.

The morning glories spent the summer months climbing, responding to the high nutrient content of the soil. When the mass finally exploded in bloom in September, it was worth the wait, and the sacrifice of the nearby beans.

While I am reluctant to stand still too long near this vine that reaches for support anywhere it can get it, at a safe distance of a few feet I stand in awe of its beauty.

Next year I just won’t plant it so close to the late crop of beans.

Carolyn has gardened organically in Nevada County since 1977. She will be teaching a class about deer-resistant ornamental grasses, shrubs, and trees at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply in Grass Valley on Nov. 1, 9:30-11:30 a.m. More information is available at She is the author of the award-winning “The Seasoned Gardener, 5 decades of sustainable and practical garden wisdom”, and two volumes of “Deer in My Garden” (deer-resistant plants), available locally.

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