End of summer doesn’t mean the end of gardening

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By Dennis Morgeson

Autumn is beautiful with the trees bursting forth with red, yellow, orange, purple and every shade in between. This is the time of year when the usually green leaves get to show off their colors. But did you know that the color was actually there all along? The green pigment or chlorophyll covers it up during the growing season.

Although nature is taking its course and showing off its beautiful leaves, it doesn’t mean you have to quit gardening or can’t add to the beauty. If you haven’t tried some of the fall blooming plants, go out and get you some. Plants such as chrysanthemum, aster, and pansy can give you a great show right up to frost and sometimes several weeks after.

Hardy chrysanthemums, commonly called mums, come in a variety of colors including yellow, orange, red, bronze, pink, lavender, and white. They even have several types of bloom shapes. Mums prefer an area with full sun and good drainage, which is essential for them to survive the winter. Mums may be transplanted in full bloom making for an instant display, however don’t buy them that way. If you purchase mums, get ones with the buds just showing color. This way you get to enjoy them from beginning to end. Several people have told me they have trouble getting mums to survive over winter. One way to help them is to leave the dead foliage intact during the winter. This will catch leaves and other debris and help keep the roots from freezing and thawing. Also, if we have dry spells after frost go ahead and water the root systems of your mums. They can die very easily if allowed to dry out too much.

The hardy asters come in a variety of heights and colors. Colors range from white to blue, to pink and lavender. There are several varieties to choose from, some remaining 12 inches tall and others growing to over four feet. The tall asters should be staked. Asters are a little hardier than mums but personally I have noticed a lot more disease problems and the blooms don’t last as long. Overall asters can be a good addition to any fall landscape.

Pansies are another of those cool season or fall blooming plants that can spruce up any landscape. Pansies come in just about every color with blooms ranging from the size of a penny to as wide as a baseball. Pansies prefer full sun and plenty of water during warm spells. Ideally pansies should be planted four inches or so apart to make a full display. Pansies are actually really tough. If someone calls you a pansy, it’s actually a complement. Pansies planted in the fall usually over winter and give you a spring show as well. I have even seen them in bloom in February with snow covering most of the foliage! One piece of advice, generally the smaller the bloom the hardier the pansy.

There are several other fall blooming plants that should be added to any landscape including re-blooming iris and daylilies as well as snapdragons and stock. Back in the spring I wrote an article about re-blooming iris in my garden and I said I would report back on my opinion. Well, they bloomed heavily in the spring and since many have bloomed several times. Some bloomed in June, others in July and still others in August and now there are several more blooms ready to open. Now, they didn’t put on a show at once like they did in the spring but depending on variety they have all re-bloomed at several times and I must say they have been terrific. I would recommend that you add them to any perennial bed.  

Happy gardening!