Get tickled pink (or blue and green) by pastel pumpkins when decorating for fall
Winter squash, pumpkins, corn and mums make beautiful fall displays. Stay classic and choose traditional orange pumpkins, yellow mums and dried cornstalks or try different color pairings, as mums and squash come in a rainbow of hues.
Hardy mums are perennial plants that you can maintain in your gardens year after year. But most garden and farm centers and even local grocery stores also sell fall mums in containers. These flowers love cooler temperatures and will bloom and thrive for weeks.
Beyond classic yellows and reds, mum color choices like white, pink, burnt orange and deep purple can make great focal points for fall decor. Try using contrasting colors, too, like orange and purple or pink and yellow.
Winter squash, like pumpkins and gourds, come in all shapes, sizes and colors, as well. If you've grown your own, harvest a few to use as decorations on a doorstep or porch.
Otherwise, find a plethora of colorful varieties at farm stores and garden centers. Pumpkin and squash colors run the gamut, from orange field pumpkins to white "Casper" ones. Look for the vivid, red "Rouge vif" type, blue pumpkins and squash or even a pink version called "Porcelain Doll."
As for shape and size, choose from classic round shapes, or go beyond that and pick a flat, stackable pumpkin, like "Stacker," or the above-mentioned "Rouge vif," which is also more squat in shape and evokes Cinderella's carriage.
And pumpkin types called, "Warty," and "Knucklehead" have orange skin with bumps and lumps to add even more character to your fall decorations. Add in some ornamental kale or cabbage for a splash of green in your fall decor, too.
A question on pests affecting echinacea flowers
Q: My beautiful bed of echinacea bloomed with many deformed blossoms. I researched it and found out it's coneflower mites. I usually leave the seeded stems for the birds over the winter but I'm kind of wondering if it's better just to cut them all down! - Karen, via email
A: The critter that is pestering your echinacea bed is known as rosette or coneflower mites. It's a common pest on echinacea and coneflower plants. The mites attack the flower cone itself and create a growth on top that disfigures the flower. The mites are microscopic so you might not see them but you will see the damage they cause.
Your inclination to get rid of the flowers is correct. Start by popping off the flower heads from their stems. Then go a step further and cut the stems way down to about 15 to 18 inches.
Deadheading and de-stemming the echinacea plants should remove any mites that might still be hanging around. This method will still leave behind enough stem so any overwintering pollinators or beneficial insects can use them as a winter home.
Then in the spring, after a series of 50-degree days, clean up the area again and add some compost onto the soil. Mites like hot, dry conditions, so keeping things moist in the flower bed — by misting the plants and flowers and keeping them really well-watered — will go a long way to keeping coneflower mites at bay.
A question about whether burdock roots are edible
Q: Are the burdock roots that grow in Vermont edible? In Japan, the roots are pickled and then eaten. And if we can do that, is it better to harvest burdock roots in the spring? - Stanley, via email
A: Yes, burdock roots are edible! The time to harvest them is now, in the fall. Burdock plants are biennial, like foxgloves and hollyhocks. The first year, they put out foliage and the next year, they grow the burrs that you might find on your clothing if you've gone for a walk in the Vermont woods!
The time to harvest the burdock for its roots will be in that first year of growth. And harvest the roots in the fall or even early spring. That's when they'll be the most tender and delicious.
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