01 of 06
Planning Ahead for a Fall Garden
Spring is such a hectic time in the garden, we are to be forgiven for not setting our sights into the future. It’s easy for gardener’s to forget to plant for the fall. We’re so tempted by what’s in bloom at the garden center, we often don’t notice the inconspicuous plants that are patiently waiting for their chance to enchant.
That's the problem with fall flowers, they don't look like much in the spring and that's when most of us are planning our gardens. Most of the time we don’t... think about fall flowers until are gardens start to fade before the season is over.
By them, it's too late to plant much but the omnipresent hardy mums. It’s true, fall blooming plants don’t add a lot to the garden during summer, but they can hide out in the back of the border and they are definitely worth the wait.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
With flares of soft, spiky flowers topping this elegant plant. It is often compared to a candelabra and it will certainly light up your late season garden. It flowers in white, pale pink, or blue. The whorled foliage looks good all season, even when it is merely lurking in the back of the border.
The plants can easily reach 4 ft. tall and spread out to about 3 ft. It is a North American wildflower, although there are several modern cultivars. Butterflies love it.
Culver’s Root prefers moist soil... that is moderately rich and flowers best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. Give it room to feel the breeze, because mildews can be a problem. The plants can handle a light frost and continue blooming.
Continue to 3 of 6 below.
- USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 7
03 of 06
Goldenrod (Solidago var.)
Gardeners usually have very definite opinions about goldenrod. For years, it got no respect. It was considered a weedy plant and was unjustly blamed for causing hay fever sufferers agony. Some of its weedy reputation was well-deserved. The species does travel via rhizomes and it will walk its way throughout your garden. While not hard to pull out, who needs another garden chore?
However, the newer cultivars are both better behaved and more attractive plants. There are several compact cultivars... out there, but if you are looking for height - and don’t want the overly enthusiastic species - you’d be hard pressed to find a better variety than ‘Fireworks’. It grows 3 - 5 ft. tall and lights up with sprays of delicate golden flowers.
Goldenrod is very drought tolerant and adapts to most growing conditions, although it will grow bet in a site with full sun and a soil moderately rich in organic matter. Although the plants are very hardy, they tend to bloom late in the season and are not particularly frost tolerant.
Continue to 4 of 6 below.
- USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 9
04 of 06
Helenium (Helenium autumnale)
This is one of those too often overlooked treasures of fall. Helenium flowers come in colors that absolutely scream fall. True, they don’t do much for your garden early in the season, but you won't care once they start to flower. To get the best impact, you’ll need a large clump - or two, or three. If you have the space, they will reward you with a dramatic late-summer-into-fall show.
Helenium, also known as sneezeweed, although it is not a hay fever problem, is not a fussy plant, but it does... like regular watering. Just be sure they are not sitting in wet soil. A site with full sun will give you the sturdiest plants, although they will tolerate partial shade. As with so many fall blooming plants, pinching back the stems in early summer with induce more branching and more flowering.
Although you will probably only find a handful of cultivars offered for sale, there are at least 70 varieties listed. Most heleniums will grow to at least 3 ft. If you want plants that can top 4 ft. tall, look to the jewel toned ‘Moerheim Beauty’ or ‘Mardi Gras’, with gold flowers that mature to tangy orange with a chocolate brown center disk. ‘Feuersige’, with gold flowers splotched with orangy-red, can easily reach 5 ft. tall.
Continue to 5 of 6 below.
- USDA Hardiness Zones 3 - 9
05 of 06
Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida)
Japanese Anemones love a rich, well-draining soil and a respite from the afternoon sun, although full morning sun will give you the best blooms. To keep them going in hot summers, you will need to make sure they get regular water.
Japanese anemones are a bit slow to become established, but once they make themselves at home, they are hard to kill. However they can be a bit sensitive to cold weather and a winter mulch is advised.
Most of the named varieties grow to at least 3 ft. tall and there are... some, like the pale pink, double-flowered 'Queen Charlotte', that reach upwards of 4 ft. The variety most often grown is the white 'Honorine Jobert', which can give your garden a glow.
Continue to 6 of 6 below.
- USDA Hardiness Zones 6 - 9.
06 of 06
Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)
If you love swallowtail butterflies, this is the plant for you. You’ll have a hard time seeing the flowers through their fluttering wings, but that’s a small sacrifice. Actually the flower heads are big enough for you and the butterflies to share.
This is another northern North American native, although it is hardy in warmer climates, too. As it's name implies, this "weed" doesn't need much help growing. But don't take that to mean it is an aggressive garden thug. The species... can spread readily by seed, but the newer cultivars are very well behaved. Joe Pye is undemanding, expect that it needs regular water. If you have a slightly damp area in your garden, this would be a great choice.
Although they are breeding smaller varieties of Joe-Pye, it’s the tall cultivars that steal your heart. Two I’d recommend are: ‘Carin’ and ‘Bartered Bride’. ‘Carin’ grows at least 6 ft. tall, with deep purple stems and plenty of plump, pink flower plumes that can measure 8 - 10 in. across.
Even taller, ‘Bartered Bride’ blooms in an unexpected white. Both are sturdy enough to not need staking, but it helps if they have shorter flowers to lean on. By the end of the season, especially if it a rainy one, they will start to bend forward.
Joe Pye is the perfect foil for other late season flowers, like goldenrod and black-eyed Susan.