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Garden Topics: Perennials

Paint Your Fall Perennial Garden Colorful

It has been a strange gardening season. An early spring got things up and blooming much sooner than usual, and many perennials blossomed far ahead of schedule. Then came heat with a lack of rain leaving very little now to keep the garden colorful until frost. A few of the plants we usually depend on to carry us into fall have come and gone. Luckily, September is a great planting month. Cooler temperatures, warm soil, frequent rainfall and more time make for less stress on the plants and on us. If your garden has lost its color, look for some of these late bloomers to add zing to your fall garden. (The picture above was taken on Sept 9th) .

Vernonia (Iron Weed) 'Iron Butterfly' bears rich purple/magenta flowers late into the growing season. It is native to hot dry locations.

Helenium (Helen's Flower) Blooms yellow, red, orange and a combination of those colors in the same flower. It has tremendous flower impact due to it's bushy nature and dense bloom. We recommend a new and unique "Double Trouble", the first double Helenium. It grows best in full sun with moderate moisture.

Anemones are starting to put on a great show. They bear 2-inch-wide flowers on wiry stalks that bob in the breeze, earning them the nickname windflower. They will grow in part shade and prefer moist, well-drained soil.

Chelone or turtlehead is an easily grown native perennial in the snapdragon family. Its bright pink flowers resemble the head of a snapping turtle. Try the showy pink cultivar 'Hot Lips'.

Ligularia has large, burgundy leaves that lend a touch of drama to any location. Add to that the bright orange, daisy-like flowers it bears in late summer, and this is one plant no garden should be without. Look for cultivars like "Britt-Marie Crawford," "Othello" and "Desdemona,". They all thrive in moist part-shade locations.

Asters are in full bloom everywhere right now. I like the compact Woods Asters, but all asters bloom best in full sun and will grow almost anywhere.

Goldenrod is a much maligned and underused fall flowering plant. Its bright yellow panicles of bloom blend well with other autumn flowers and brighten up a dreary section of my garden. My favorites are the tall "Fireworks" and the dwarf varieties "Little Lemon" and 'Cutleri Gold Rush'. Give them a chance in your garden. This native plant is deer resistant and attracts butterflies and bees. It will grow and bloom well in sun to part shade.

Bugbane, was once called Cimicifuga but now is known as Actea.  It bears tall stalks of pale pink to white bottlebrush flowers that smell divine. For added color, look for ones in the atropurpurea group with dark purple-black foliage, such as "Black Negligee" or "Brunette." It is a woodland native that grows well in shade to part sun.

Sedum "Autumn Joy" is everyone's favorite fall blooming sedum, but there are others. "Frosty Morn" has pale pink almost white flowers with variegated foliage and "Matrona" has darker pink flowers. All grow to be about two feet tall and bear their flowers in terminal clusters. They form clumps that are easily divided and shared. This tough plant will grow in any sunny area with the exception of wet soils. It is also salt tolerant.

Sweet Autumn Clematis is a must-have vine for the fall garden. Cut it back each spring and it will grow a over 10 feet each year. The explosion of fragrant, white, one inch, star-like flowers is spectacular. The bees enjoy it even more than we do, tanking up on nectar and yellow pollen.

Ornamental grasses are the real stars of the autumn garden. They are now in full bloom and many change color in the fall. They can stand all winter and look lovely when covered with frost. One of our favorites is "Miscanthus Adagio" which only grows to the height of 3-4 feet and will fit nicely in most gardens.

Two other newly arrived perennials are:

Sombrero Salsa Coneflower - which has the strongest red color of any coneflower.

Fanfare Blaze Blanket Flower that sports blazing red/orange flowers over a very long periods and loves hot dry areas.

Fall is a great time for dividing overgrown perennials or making design changes by moving plants around. It is also a perfect time for planting trees and shrubs. If your budget is tight, swap some divisions with friends. Check out some of these spectacular perennials when you go to pick up your mums.

Fall Perennial Garden Vernonia Iron Butterfly Helenium Anemones Chelone - Turtlehead Liqularia Asters Goldenrod Bugbane Sedum "Autumn Joy" Sweet Autumn Clematis Ornamental grasses Perennials

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