After a long hot summer, I’m so glad I can open the windows, get some fresh air, and enjoy the outdoors. But my garden (all 18 square feet of it) is looking pretty pathetic — a mishmash of overzealous weeds and exhausted annuals that battled each other and the summer’s extreme heat and moisture. The weeds won. Now it’s time to clear out the sad and droopy plants and add some vibrant fall color.
My plant knowledge is pretty limited. In terms of fall plants, I know about the old standbys — Mums and Pansies. But I’m really interested in trying something new.
So I sat down with my neighbor Eileen Powell, professional landscaper and garden consultant and author of The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Flowers from Seed to Bloom.
Eileen gave me some great advice on what to plant, when to plant, and how to keep your plants happy. (And, by the way, her book is pretty great too — available on Amazon.com, it’s a very handy reference tool with everything you need to know about gardening, a must-have for your DIY library.)
Four plants to fall in love with this year
If you are looking for something a little different in your garden, Eileen suggests these four perennials. You probably won’t find them at Home Depot or Lowe’s, so check out a local garden center or nursery.
- Aconitum (Monkshood) — it has “mysterious, hooded purple flowers” and can grow 5-6 feet; prefers shade but will deal with sun if that’s all you have (make sure to give plenty of agua).
- Autumn-blooming Anemone — emphasis on autumn-blooming (only buy that kind for fall); produces white and pale pink flowers; they can handle dry soil and hot climates (so if you forget to water, it’s ok).
- Asters — these pretty ladies look a lot like Mums and come in a lot of colors; Eileen says they are an “indispensable late bloomer” and good for borders.
- Tricyrtis (Toadlily) — these do well in part shade, but again, will handle the sun; their flowers have a unique upturned bell shape.
Aconitum and Autumn-blooming Anemone:
Aster and Tricyrtis:
Instant gratification with fall blooming bulbs
If you’re impatient like me, you’ll be interested in checking out the autumn Crocus. Apparently, after planting, this little guy will bloom in just a matter of weeks. If you have more time, you might be interested in the hardy Cyclamen. You can plant them now but they will probably not bloom until next year. I think I’ll go with option A.
Get the most out of your mums and pansies
I’ve always wondered why my Mums and Pansies never seem to last very long. Here’s what Eileen recommends:
- Make sure to dig your holes twice as big as the pot.
- Try Osmocote, a time release fertilizer to boost your soil.
- Give plenty of water and don’t let the ground dry out completely. Water as often as you would something in a pot.
- Deadhead the Mums and Pansies as soon as the flowers fade.
- Don’t plant Pansies until the temperature hits a steady 70 degrees. They will get tall and leggy and flop over. You may find the selection is better now, so if you buy just don’t plant in the ground yet.
Eileen also shared that September is the perfect time to plant cool-season veggies such as spinach, swiss chard, leaf lettuce, radish, and even peas.
Bonus tidbit for spring
According to Eileen, one of the biggest mistakes people make is pruning their early spring blooming shrubs (Azaleas, Rhododendron, etc.) in the fall. If you absolutely must prune, do it right after the plants bloom. Never prune after July 4th –you will cut off next year’s flower buds.
Have you had any experience with the plants mentioned above? What are you growing in your fall garden?
Posted by Katie