The Magnificent Splendor of Fall Gardening

Carolyn Black
Adams County Master Gardener

If your flower gardens are like mine, some of the summer flowers have peaked and are on a downward spiral. But there is an exciting array of fall color that will soon show its magnificent splendor. Donít say goodbye to summer gardening when autumn arrives because the end of summer does not mean closing down a flower garden. I would like to convey some information about autumn splendor in a flower garden that I have personally experienced.

Sedum is a drought-tolerant, succulent perennial that starts blooming in late summer, and then changes to shades of pink, burgundy, or rust, depending on the variety. The sedum that I nurture is Autumn Joy and Stonecrop. Sedum likes full sun for the best show of color.

One can never go wrong with knock-out roses. True to its name, they knock themselves out with beautiful blooms from late spring until frost. They are an essential accessory for any garden that desires color three seasons of the year. These roses prefer sun to part shade and no spraying is required. They can be purchased in a wide variety of colors and heights.

Re-blooming hydrangeas are a favorite garden accent. Quick fire hydrangea blooms are white, turn pink in the summer and in the fall will evolve into a beautiful burgundy. They dry easily and provide beautiful bouquets in your home throughout the winter months. Another exceptional variety is vanilla strawberry. This produces an extremely dramatic bloom that is very large and white. In late summer it will partially turn strawberry pink. Be sure to provide enough room for this hydrangea to showcase your garden. Other varieties that will continue to add color into the fall are Endless Summer, Letís Dance, and Lady In Red. Oak leaf hydrangeas will deliver beautiful blooms in the summer and remarkable foliage in the fall.

Lagerstroemia (Crape Myrtle) provides a showcase of color in the summer through fall. There are many different varieties with colors ranging from white, pink, rose, or lavender. Long, cool autumns yield the best leaf display and the bark of the crape myrtle is exquisite in the fall.

Rudbeckia, also known as Black-Eyed Susan, is native to the United States. It is at its prime in late summer, but donít discard the seed pods. They are attractive in an autumn landscape and the birds will enjoy the seeds in the winter.

Canna lilies are tropical-appearing plants that will strongly bloom until frost if deadheaded properly. A most important characteristic of this flower is that it provides food for the hummingbirds until they go south for the winter. The flowers are typically red, but they can also be orange, pink, or yellow. Cannas exhibit bold foliage. The rhizomes are frost tender and they cannot be left unprotected in freezing conditions. They should be stored in a protected area (about 45 degrees) for replanting in the spring.

An annual that is at its peak in the fall is the marigold. It comes in a wide variety of shades of orange/red/yellow, depending on the variety. Lantana is another annual that is spectacular until late fall.

An autumn landscape would not be complete without some plantings that produce berries. Some of my favorites are holly, dogwood, viburnum, and crabapple trees. Other sources of color in an autumn landscape are trees and shrubs with beautiful fall foliage. Maples are spectacular, especially red maples, sugar maples, and Japanese maples.

Vines add height and depth to a garden. The hyacinth bean vine produces beautiful purple pods that add color to any garden in the waning summer months.

Every garden needs shrubs for texture and structure. A personal favorite fall beauty is Caryopteris (blue mist shrub). This shrub is laced with beautiful, delicate true-blue flowers with gray-green foliage. Bees and butterflies love this shrub.

Nipponanthemum nipponicum (Montauk Daisy) is an herbaceous perennial that blooms in the fall. It displays white flowers with yellow centers. The leaves of this perennial are just as important as its blooms. The dark green foliage is shiny to the eye and leathery to the touch.

There are many different varieties of asters, all of which bloom in the fall. The bright, colorful flowers resemble daisies and are shades of white, purple, pink, or red. For utmost beauty, pinch the buds back until the end of July to make sure they bloom superbly in the fall. Asters are a rich source of nectar and are bee magnets.

Heuchera (commonly called coral bells or alumroot) have hues of purple, butterscotch, pink, burgundy, and frosty silvers. They are easy to grow and blend harmoniously with other autumn tones in the garden.

With summer on the wane and autumn in the air, now is not the time to end the growing season. Indulge in a late summer surge of gardening creativity and experience an explosion of color in late summer and throughout the autumn growing season.

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