Tomorrow it will be September. How did autumn creep up on us? There are only 22 days before we celebrate the autumnal Equinox on September 23. The real question is have we selected flowers that will bloom through the fall?
As I look around my garden I see a number of plants that have just begun to bloom. My ever larger clump of pale pink Japanese anemones, Anemone vitifolia ‘Robustissima’ has just begun to bloom. I love the way the dainty pink flowers dance on their delicate, but strong stems. I also love the way it has spread over the past four years, but in the spring I will need to do some thinning. I’ll have shoots for the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale.
The Bridge of Flowers can give interested gardeners a great lesson in the variety of form and color and the vitality of dahlias. Some dahlias begin blooming in late June, but more and more begin blooming as the season progresses. There are single dahlias that look like fat daisies, as well as pom pons that bloom early. Fancier dahlias include huge blossoms up to 10 inches across in colors from white to dark wine red.
Dahlias grow from tubers that are planted in the spring. At the end of the season the tuber, which now has additional tubers attached, needs to be dug up and stored for the winter. Next spring you will have three or four tubers to plant – or trade with a friend for a different dahlia style or color.
Potted chrysanthemums are already showing up in front of supermarkets. These mums, as we call them, will only give you pleasure this year, but you can grow mums that will come back every year. Like dahlias chrysanthemums come in many sizes, color and forms. We are lucky that we can go to the annual Chrysanthemum Show at the Lyman Greenhouse at Smith College from November 2-17 and see those brilliant flowers.
There are 13 classes of chrysanthemums from blossoms with incurved petals, reflex petals, through single and semi-double blossoms to spoon mums that have petals ending with a spoon shape.
I am not sure what category my Sheffield daisies fall into, but they are also classified as a chrysanthemum. Sheffies are great autumnal plants, cheerfully pink beginning in September and blooming well through October. They are a little floppy around the edges but they are wonderfully determined and dependable.
I recently found it fascinating to learn that mums are related to dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, and cosmos, all of which will bloom into the fall
The large family of asters are familiar and important autumnal flowers. I have Wood’s Blue with a yellow center, a wonderfully spreading low growing aster. It prefers full sun, but mine tolerate late afternoon shade.
Alma Potchke is a popular aster, in a cheerful shade of deep pink with yellow centers. She is about three feet tall and in my garden she thrives in a very sunny spot.
Boltonia Snowbank is also an aster, thriving in the sun and forming an upright tall snowy white mound up to five feet tall. It is one of the latest blooming asters. In fact, all these three asters bloom from early to late fall.
Aster Frikartii is a blue/lavender aster with a yellow center that has been a standard in the fall garden for many years. Given good rich soil and sun it will form a flowery mound three feet tall and wide. It will bloom earlier than the other three asters, and finish earlier.
What all these asters have in common is their benefits to pollinators until late in the season. They also attract butterflies, and are ideal for bouquets.
There are other perennials that will bloom into the fall including pink turtlehead, Joe Pye weed, black eyed susans, phlox, and large sedums like Autumn Joy.
Large shrubs like hydrangea have an important place in the fall garden. Hydrangea paniculata is also known as hardy hydrangea because it tolerates winters well. By annual pruning you can manage its size which can range from 8 to 15 feet. Paniculata blooms on new wood which means pruning back in very early spring.
Hydrangeas don’t begin to make buds until summer begins. Those buds grow and open slowly through the summer and the fall. They prefer a rich soil and a sunny location.
Paniculatas are now available in colors other than white. Their colors change over the summer. This is just the way the color develops. Paniculata color is not altered by having more or less lime in the soil. In my garden there is Limelight, which slowly turns from white to a pale shade of green. So far it is about six or seven feet tall. If you prefer a dependably small green hydrangea Little Lime is waiting for you. Its size will range between three and five feet.
Angel’s Blush and Firelight are about the same size, the first will be a very pale shade of pink, and Firelight will become more and more red as the season progresses. These are now about seven feet tall and will get taller.
A little deadheading here and there will keep the rest of the garden looking neat and attractive through autumn days.
Between the Rows August 31, 2019