Almost any woody plant can be moved into the garden now, though for magnolias, sour gums (which nobody ever plants), dogwoods and red oaks, I'd wait till spring. But for viburnums, hollies, camellias, azaleas, nandinas, clematis, box, hawthorns and virtually everything else, fall is a grand time.
There will be two months for them to settle in before real winter. The ground is easy to work, there are not going to be hot dry winds, there is not going to be a drought, and all the hazards of spring will be avoided.
This is also a fine time to investigate any friends that have cows or horses, since manure is endlessly valuable in the garden. Some people say what about weed seeds? As I could not possibly have more weeds than at present, this is no terror to me. You may have to wait till January to get manure from the country, when the barns start filling up. I never mind the straw mixed with it, considering straw as admirable as manure.
Many books speak of cow manure, but horse manure is not to be sniffed at, being even better on heavy clay soils.
In my experience, September is the best month for planting daffodils, though most gardeners get them in late in October. They can be planted up till Thanksgiving, and in a pinch up till Christmas. I have planted them in February. None of which changes my view that September is best. But you know how gardeners are -- a day late and a dollar short, so I try not to scold.
It strikes me garden tools have got rather expensive. I have a bad habit of leaving them outdoors, leaning against the garage. They should go inside. The wood gets weak if they stand out in the weather, and one fine day the handle snaps. Theoretically it takes only a minute to paint a bit of scarlet on the handle, for easy retrieval in case you leave them in some lush growth somewhere. Neat gardeners never leave anything anywhere, but I have located many a trowel over the years by spotting the little flash of scarlet.
Never in my life have I seen dogwood buds so small as this year. For a time I feared there were not going to be any buds at all, but they did finally set at the tips of the twigs, though later than usual and they have finally begun to swell. But I do not expect as lavish a show as usual next spring.
Every year without fail a certain number of shrubs send forth a few flowers in the fall. Many azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, viburnums, thorns, quinces, pears and other things may be found blooming now, very half-heartedly on one or two twigs. Some gardeners seem never to have noticed this and call excitedly, wondering what to do, and hoping this will not ruin the spring display.
There is, needless to say, nothing one can do, except maybe enjoy the unseasonal flowers. I do not notice any difference in the spring performance.
Many gardeners like to tidy up now and divide perennials which (they reason) are perfectly hardy to cold, so why not divide and replant them now? And indeed this is the perfect time to divide and replant peonies. An astonishing number of people do not want to divide peonies. But after they have been there for some years (40 years is the record this year for those who have inquired) they should be cut apart into sections of root with five eyes, and if you are in a panic to see a lot of flowers quickly, you can even plant two such sections in a large planting site. Otherwise, five eyes, and simply wait three years for the new clump to form.
It is better not to divide irises than to do it this late. Sometimes they do all right if divided as late as November, but often they resent the cold or something and do not bloom the first year. So divide them the end of July as you are supposed to.
Some perennials abhor fall division, notably Shasta daisies and many phloxes. They are extremely easy in the spring, after new growth starts, and with me they have a wretched habit of dying over the winter if divided now. There are some other perennials that look so thick and lush in the fall -- Siberian and Japanese irises are prime offenders -- that you cannot imagine their dying if you pry them apart in October. The result of this usually is that they look fine all winter and die utterly in March. So leave them alone now. I am saving you work by the paragraph.