Flowers among friends

Vineyard Gardens celebrates fall with a harvest festival.

A sea of mums filled Vineyard Gardens for the Fall Harvest Festival. — Connie Berry

Vineyard Gardens was a sea of burgundy, yellow, purple, red, and orange chrysanthemums during its fall harvest festival last Saturday. Even though fall generally means the end of the line for flowering plants, with the optimum weather of late the event felt a little like a spring fling.

Chris and Chuck Wiley, owners of Vineyard Gardens for more than 30 years, were there to answer questions from festival goers who wanted to know everything from how to make a fall floral arrangement to why the plants they put in five years ago are now taking over their yard. Since Chris is a former teacher, she was the perfect instructor, answering most questions. And if she didn’t know the answer, Chuck did. They said this was the best year ever for those colorful mums, and there’s still plenty of time to enjoy some perennial Montauk daisies or berries (think holly, winter, or beautyberries) in your garden.

Chuck is partial to holly — he’s on the board of trustees of the Holly Society of America.

“We’re an obscure group of holly-loving plant enthusiasts,” he said. Holly does very well in the Vineyard’s moderate climate, Chuck said.

“We have a late spring and a long-lasting fall,” he said. “We’re in climate zone 7, which is equivalent to southern New Jersey.”

And, he said, the time to cut plants back and clean up is after the first hard frost, hopefully leaving plenty of time to enjoy those late-bloomers that are still going strong.

Vineyard Gardens was full of visitors Saturday afternoon, some enjoying cornbread souffle, caramel apples, grilled hot dogs, and cider while they browsed the still-colorful plants. Kathy James, perennials expert at Vineyard Gardens, led craft sessions, hollowing out small pumpkins but leaving enough pulp inside to support fall flowers and dried plants pushed into the pumpkin to make an adorable little flower arrangement. Chris put together a much larger pumpkin flower arrangement featuring cone-shaped panicle hydrangeas and other fall standouts.

Meanwhile Chuck explained why now is the perfect time to plant.

“There’s still a lot of time for root growth,” he said. “We get a lot of rain and sun, and our winter temperatures are typically pretty mild.” As for getting your garden ready for winter, he suggests a top dressing of good, low-nitrogen organic compost.

Chuck is the landscaping specialist in the husband-and-wife team, and he’s available for site visits to determine what type of plants would grow best on your property and where to plant them. He’s looking for light and shade, how much deer factor into the picture, and whether or not the homeowner will be able to water the plants consistently.

The Wileys will offer a presentation on putting your gardens to bed at the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 1 pm at the Old Mill in West Tisbury.