What do you think of when you think of the flowers of autumn? Chrysanthemums immediately to mind, if only because in September every supermarket dresses itself with ranks of potted mums. These mums are colorful, although a bit straitlaced in their pots, and may blind us to the many other flowers of autumn. However, there are many other fall bloomers.
One of my favorite autumn bloomers is the Japanese anemone. I have a large clump of the old pink variety Robusstisma. It begins blooming in late summer and continues till a hard frost. Like Robustissima, the standard white Honorine Joubert has a classic cup shape with a golden center. It is 36 inches tall and new flowers keep appearing over a long season. Both are hardy to zone 4, but there are newer cultivars.
Bluestone Perennials and WaysideGardens offer newer varieties as well as these old favorites. Max Vogel is a more ruffled pink with a brilliant gold center. Margarette is a deeper pink double variety that is only 24 inches tall. Whirlwind is a tall white double with petals that do look ruffled by the breezes. These newer varieties are listed as hardy to zone 5.
Japanese anemones are listed as rabbit and deer resistant, but I have to report with some chagrin that the deer have munched on my Robustissima, both before and after blooming.
Boltonia is another fall bloomer that isn’t mentioned very often, but this hardy plant, sometimes called a false aster, will bloom for a month. At four feet or more and covered with snowy white flowers just one plant puts out a tremendous show until after hard frost. Snowbank is the white variety, but there is also Boltonia Pink which is slightly shorter with pink petals around the golden center. Both are hardy to zone 4 and both tolerate a wet site.
Rudbeckia Goldsturm is a classic black eyed susan. This flower is hardy to zone 3, and not susceptible to any disease. It is also quite drought tolerant. It will bloom from July until well into September.
At four feet tall with unusual narrow rolled petals Rudbeckia subtomentosa Henry Eilers is a striking cultivar that will certainly attract attention.
Black eyed susans are such popular flowers and such late bloomers that it is no surprise that the hybridizers have glammed her up. Rudbeckia hirta Cappucino is 18 inches tall and the large double blossoms are in shades of golden red. Rudbeckia hirta Cherry Brandy will not bloom quite as late in the fall, but the deep red-maroon color is a whole new vision of the black eyed susan. All the rudbeckias make good cut flowers, as do the Japanese anemones and boltonia.
Good front of the border plants are garlic chives and salvias. I have various kinds of chives, and had forgotten that I had planted a new garlic chive clump in the North Lawn Bed. Garlic chives bloom in late summer and through the fall. The blossoms are white, not the purple of the familiar spring blooming chives. The purpose of my new clump was ornamental, a touch of white against a dark fountain juniper, but they can be snipped all season long for use in the kitchen. The flavor is more garlicky than oniony, and more gentle that garlic cloves.
There are so many salvias, and all so beautiful and useful. Culinary sage is a salvia and while it doesn’t have flowers at this season, the gray-green foliage is a very handsome element in any garden.
Of course there are many other colors of annual salvias like Lighthouse Purple, white and blue Sea Breeze and Red Hot Mama. Seduced by the peachy flowers in June I planted a perennial salvia listed as Autumn Sage Heatwave Glow. It still has a few flowers thought it is badly crowded by a trumpet vine, parsley and some enormous horseradish leaves. I don’t know whether it will survive the winter (hardy to zone 6, minus 10 degrees) but this year’s flowers were worth it.
Of course there are other fall bloomers including a world of chrysanthemums, asters and dahlias and other annuals. Just take a walk over the Bridge of Flowers and see how many plants are blooming this late in the season.
A final note. Many people are not familiar with Ratibida columnifera Red Midget, otherwise called Red Mexican Hat. I only became aware of this native prairie plant recently, about the same time I learned about the ‘bat faced’ cuphea which I have enjoyed so much this summer. Ratibida is hardy to zone 3. It is only about 15 inches tall and its small blossoms are comprised of reflexed red petals around a prominent cone. This seed cone will be very attractive to birds after the petals have fallen in the fall. Ratibida will not bloom as late into the fall as the other plants I have mentioned but they are so interesting and unusual I wanted to mention them. There is also Ratibida Yellow. Look for them in my garden next year. ###
Between the Rows September 20, 2014