It’s a natural habit for some and a ritual for others: planning a garden visit or two during the summer. Of course! The weather is nice, everything is in bloom and it’s vacation time! You have time to wander, stroll and let yourself soak up the beauty of the flowers and foliage.
Visiting a garden is good for you, in every sense of the word. It’s good for your physical health, good for your mental health and good for your mood. The launch of the Park Prescription program this past spring widely demonstrated this and brought it forward in the news. Inspired by the national PaRx program (A Prescription for Nature) which started in British Columbia in 2020, the Park Prescription program recognizes the active role of health professionals in promoting healthy lifestyles, including the benefits of regular contact with nature. In simpler words, doctors now prescribe nature walks to treat their patients.
Open and Ready to Welcome You!
Medically prescribing outings in natural settings is, in my opinion, an excellent idea! But why stick to only the wilds? Gardens, as parcels of nature, provide the same benefits. Science has amply demonstrated this to us over the last few years. In order to let you discover the beauties of an end-of-season garden and, of course, to do you a considerable amount of good, I am hereby giving you a “Fall Garden Prescription”!
Fall is a fabulous time to visit a garden. And yes! Most public gardens remain open to visitors well after the official back-to-school date. Some will remain accessible until the end of October. A few, especially in milder climates, are even open all year. All these reasons are more than enough… now, you only have to take advantage of your prescription.
Benefit No. 1: Freshness and Comfort
Need I say more? Visiting a garden in the heart of July, in the middle of a heat wave and under a blazing sun … is it really the best way to appreciate a garden? You have to drag yourself along slowly, looking for shade, with plants visibly wilting all around you. They’re as thirsty as their visitors! And what about light? It’s absolutely the worst for capturing beautiful souvenir photos!
None of the above occurs in the fall! The climate is cool and pleasant, the sun is comforting and your visit doesn’t just draw you to the shadiest part of the gardens! You’ll discover that the greens are intense and that plants are happy! Your only concern will be to check the weather forecast to choose a day when it won’t rain.
Advantage #2: Having the Garden All to Yourself
Visiting a garden in the fall is actually an ingenious idea! You’ll be doing the opposite of what everyone else, with their summer garden visits, does! There are fewer visitors, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the garden. It’s almost as if you were alone in the world. No one jostles you on a narrow path, you don’t have to wait to see the crowd-drawing featured arrangement, and have plenty of time for taking that perfect shot without having to wait and wait for other visitors to step out of the frame. And what about the light? Ask any photographer: it’s just perfect in fall!
Benefit #3: Appreciate a New Floral Palette
In September and October, there’ll be no more peonies, lilies and daylilies (well, there may be a few residual lilies and daylilies, but not many). Now it’s the turn of coneflowers (Echinacea spp. and Rudbeckia spp.), sneezeweeds (Helenium spp.), asters (Aster spp.), turtleheads (Chelone spp.) and wonderful perennial hibiscuses (Hibiscus moscheutos) to shine. It’s a brand new collection of flowers that express themselves and bring their touches of color to the garden. Actually, you really should visit the same garden twice a month in order to take advantage of the complete succession of blooms. But in the fall, cooler temperatures mean that flowers last longer. One less stress to consider!
Advantage No. 4: Leaves That Think They’re Flowers!
Autumn also marks the beginning of leaf color change and this too is a great advantage for your “Fall Garden Prescription”! What was green slowly turns golden-yellow, pale orange or bright red! Everyone expects these color changes to come from trees and shrubs. However, many perennials also put on a beautiful show of fall leaf colors in September and October. The thick, glossy foliage of bergenias (Bergenia spp.) turns purple-red while that of the bluestars (Amsonia spp.) turns golden yellow. And you mustn’t forget ornamental grasses that adopt the gold and yellowish of straw as winter approaches.
Advantage #5: Amazing Fall Theme Gardens
Public gardens are well aware that the visiting season is far from over in fall and they pull out all the stops in order to attract us. Displays of apples, squash and pumpkins adorn the most beautiful corners of the gardens. Some offer night tours or light shows and, of course, many gardens organize themed parties to celebrate Halloween. Ghosts and witches crisscross flowery paths, to the delight of young families.
My best advice would therefore be to take a good look at the programs your area’s public gardens have on offer while taking note of the official closing date. With that in mind, all the many benefits of a fall visit await you.
So, off you go! Into the garden, prescription in hand!