Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Colorful Autumn Garden Series, Part 4

Perennial chrysanthemums brighten any fall garden.

Fall has so much to offer us...much cooler temperatures, endless foliage colors, and rain.  Walking around my garden yesterday to take blog pictures took much longer than I thought it would, not because I could not find plants to photograph, but I just could not decide which plants photograph. (All the pictures in this blog were taken October 25, 2010.)

While most of my asters have finished blooming, Aster tataricus 'Jindai' is in full flower.  This tall aster has a stiff, upright habit and blooms well past October.  The 1" clusters of bright blue flowers with glowing yellow centers is a perfect partner for perennial chrysanthemums.

Itea 'Little Henry'
Double-duty shrubs are among my favorites.   ‘Little Henry’ Itea is a useful native plant that will not only reward you with lightly scented, pure white flowers in early summer; but just when you’re not expecting anything more from this little wonder, its green summer foliage changes to a brilliant multitude of burgundies and reds in the fall.

Another favorite is Fothergilla Blue Shadow.  Blue Shadow is adorned with honey-scented, bottlebrush flowers in early spring before it leafs out. But what sets this outstanding plant apart from the rest is its colorful dusty blue leaves. In the autumn the blue foliage transforms to shades of rich red, orange and yellow.

Penny Mac and Sambucus Black Lace
Ninebark and Black Lace Sambucus are two shrubs that provide year-round dark burgundy foliage.  Hydranges are known for their flower power, but many hydrangeas offer beautiful burgundy fall foliage as well.  Endless Summer, Penny Mac, and Oakleaf  are just three of the many hydrangeas that provide stunning fall color.  As an added bonus, Penny Mac and Endless Summer bloom right through the fall.

Fall seed heads on grasses are as varied as the grasses themselves.  One of my favorites is Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Moudry'.   While Moudry is an especially beautiful grass, the seed heads need to be cut back before winter to prevent reseeding.

Late blooming anemones do not easily give up and continue to flower, as do some of the roses.  Hyssops that were cut back late summer are still flowering.  And while the blooms on butterfly bushes have slowed down quite a bit, they continue to push out some new blooms. 

But the true stars of my late October gardens are
the peren- nial chrysan- themums  And do they know how to ham it up! Sheffields demand attention of anyone who passes by.  Shrugging off frost, these flowers will last well into November without blinking an eye.  I would never garden without  perennial chrysanthemums.

I hope my fall gardening series has encouraged you to discover the enjoyment of fall gardening. 

While we often search for plants that offer beauty, sometimes all we have to do is to take time to see the beauty.

Two books I highly recommend for seasonal gardening:
Time-Tested Plants by Pamela J. Harper and
Continuous Bloom by Pam Duthie 

Related blogs:
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 1
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 2
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 3
Mums the Word

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vegetable Garden Survey

Steve Bogash, Regional Horticulture Educator and George Weigel, Garden Writer and Designer are gathering information from folks who started vegetable gardens in the in the last 3-5 years.  From Steve's email:

We'd like to know more about your experiences and the direction you are heading with your vegetable gardening. Whether you grow a few herbs in some containers or have created a large patch, we want to know how things have gone and where you are heading. 

Just click on this link: and complete a simple 15 question survey. 

The survey is completely anonymous and should take only a few minutes.

The survey will close on November 19, 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mums the Word

Garden mums are ubiquitous in fall gardens. The beauty of their instant fall color is hard to beat. The mums for sale in fall nurseries have been coddled to set buds for September blooms and are putting an awful lot of energy into blooming, not growing roots.  These garden mums may carry the label of being "hardy", but planting these out in the garden  in the fall  usually does not allow sufficient  time for the plants to become established.   In our area with some winter days of below zero, freezing and thawing of the soil will heave the plant out of the ground and kill the roots.  While spring-planted garden mums have a much better chance of survival, you can increase the survival rate of fall-planted garden mums by planting as soon as possible, keeping the foliage on until spring, and mulching the plants heavily.   Of course you can always enjoy the beauty of garden mums and consider them annuals.

Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Sheffield Pink' in my garden
Did you know there are truly hardy perennial chrysanthemums?  They are later blooming than the garden mums and will extend your growing season well into October.  You will not find the perennial chrysanthemums for sale with the fall garden mums.  Nurseries generally place them with perennials.

The chrysanthemum world has not made it easy on us, as they have been busy classifying and reclassifying perennial mums.
Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Mary Stoker' in my garden
About seven years ago these hardy perennial mums were reclassified from Chrysanthemums.   After the reclassification you would find perennial mums listed  as Chrysanthemum rubellum, Chrysanthemum X rubellum and Chrysanthemum koreana.  Then four years ago they were reclassified again to Chrysanthemums.  Now I find them listed under all classifications.

Many perennial gardeners are familiar with the Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Clara Curtis' often found in local nurseries along with Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Sheffield Pink' .  The following perennials are not as easy to find locally, but are definitely worth looking into for your fall garden.

  •  Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Mary Stoker'
  •  Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Sheffield Yellow'
  •  Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Venus'  (Pink  and White Form)
  •  Chrysanthemum x 'Bolero'
  •  Chrysanthemum x 'Cambodian Queen'
Let your favorite nursery know you are interested in purchasing perennial chrysanthemums.  They may be able to include them in their perennial stock next year.

Colorful Autumn Garden (Part 3)

Autumn garden bouquet
On a recent early October afternoon under a clear blue sky, I had tea while on my swing in the garden. Nearby were fall asters in full bloom. In addition to enjoying the beauty of the asters, I watched as the bees and Monarch butterflies busily move from one blossom to another.  I would not want to miss these moments in my fall garden and neither should you.  Choosing the right plants will keep color in your garden well into late October. 

Asters and Eupatorium Chocolate
According to ancient Greek mythology, goddess Asterea looked at earth and could not find any stars, she cried. The aster, with flowers resembling blinking stars, grew out of the soil, wherever her tears fell. Perennial asters are late season bloomers that come in a wide range of colors: pink, white, blue, red and purple. It is impossible to imagine an autumn garden without asters. In fact, there are hundreds of aster varieties to satisfy any taste.  Pinch them back around mid-July and they will produce a profusion of 1- to 2-inch-wide, star-shaped flowers.

As the name implies, Eupatorium Chocolate (Chocolate Joe Pye Weed, Chocolate Snakeroot) is a mass of chocolate-purple leaves all summer with shiny deep purple stems and petioles, smothered in autumn with small white flowers. While Eupatorium Chocolate likes moist shade, it does fine in the sun if ample moisture is provided.  Pinching back around mid-July will keep the plant more compact, if desired.
Hardy Begonia and Wood Asters

Hardy begonias are still going strong and look great with Eupatorium Chocolate and asters.  The red veins of the begonia look like stained glass in the sunlight.  The great thing about the begonia is that it seeds freely.  I was excited when I found some white begonias.  Absolutely one of my favorites in the shade garden.

Stems on ‘Lady in Red’ hydrangea become more intense in the cooler temperatures.  Other hydrangeas such as Little Lamb, Limelight, and Tardiva are taking on a more blushed tint while Endless Summer is still putting out new flowers.
Fall Anemone
Hibiscus Diana blooms on tirelessly which, by the way,  is why she is not a prolific reseeder.   Agastache Blue Fortune and Phlox that had been cut back in late summer are flowering once again along with spirea Anthony Waterer.  Fall anemones are still vying for attention.  Even though the flowering has slowed down, butterfly bushes that have been deadheaded regularly are still in color.

Fall gardeners need to look beyond flowers for color.  Grasses are sending up beautiful seed heads of various shades and texture. Nothing is more beautiful than sun glistening on dew covered seed heads of grasses.  Clusters of Callicarpa’s (American Beautyberry) glossy pink-purple berries cling to the stems.  Callicarpa should be cut to the ground each spring as berries form on new wood.  Not to be outdone by brilliant red Chokeberry, the berries on cotoneaster and winterberry are turning brilliant red-orange as well.  

And soon ….but that will all have to wait for Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 4. 

Remember, fall bloomers can get very tall and leggy growing foliage all summer. Once they bloom, they are often top heavy and fall over. To ensure your fall display is as glorious has it should be, you will either need to stake your fall bloomers earlier in the season or do some periodic pruning to make the plants stockier and more self-supporting. Keep in mind that if you prune your plants, you will be delaying the bloom period by a week or more.

All photographs were taken October 3, 2010, and can be enlarged by clicking on the picture.

Two books I highly recommend for seasonal gardening:
Time-Tested Plants by Pamela J. Harper and
Continuous Bloom by Pam Duthie 

Related blogs:
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 1
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 2
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 4