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Favorite Autumn Flowers

23 August 2013
Favorite Autumn Flowers

Autumn is just around the corner, and it is time to start planning and planting for the next phase of the gardening season. Here are several favorite fall-blooming perennials. Most are tried-and-true, but we've thrown in some weird but wonderful plants for the beauty of their late-season display.

Japanese Anemones
A fall garden is incomplete without anemones (A. hupehensis; A. x hybrida; A. vitifolia). These wonderful, 2- to 3-foot-tall plants seem to explode into bloom in the fall with single or double flowers in shades of rose, pink, salmon, or white. Held aloft on fragile-looking stems, the flowers and shiny buds add a certain gracefulness at this time of year. Anemones grow best in rich, organic soil in part afternoon shade. 'Honorine Jobert' is the best white anemone, and 'September Charm', with its silvery pink flowers, is a late-season knockout.

Fall-blooming asters are such popular perennials that new cultivars are constantly being introduced. It's easy to see why. Asters produce huge numbers of 2-inch-wide daisies in colors from pink to purple to white on plants that range in size from low-growing edging plants to towering beauties for the back of the border. Asters thrive in average garden soil in full sun.

Lower-growing asters don't require pinching or staking the way most of the tall asters do. One of the best is Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'. It grows 18 inches tall and wide, with dramatic, deep violet-purple flowers. It makes a perfect companion to yarrow and dwarf fountain grass (Penniseum alopecuroides 'Hameln') for a beautiful late-fall picture.

Toad-lilies (Tricyrtis hirta) fall into the "interesting and unusual" category. They have arching, 2- to 3-foot stems and are just ordinary-looking, non-descript plants until, in September, rows of orchid-like white flowers open where the pointed leaves are attached to the stems. If you look closely, you'll see that the blooms are speckled with dark purple. Toad-lilies thrive in part shade and moist soil.

Colorful Foliage
Fall-flowering perennials are just part of the secret to having attractive beds and borders. You can fool the eye into seeing a colorful garden even when little is in bloom if you include plants with colorful foliage, such as Heuchera 'Palace Purple', which has red-purple, maple-like leaves; variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'), with leaves that turn a marvelous shade of gold with creamy white edges; silver-leaved plants like Artemisia 'Powis Castle', and Bergenia cordifolia, with bronze-purple autumn foliage.

Shop and plant now if you want your perennial beds to look spectacular this fall. If you wait until the end of the summer when the beds look bedraggled, you'll probably end up dashing out to the nursery in a desperate search for color. Most nurseries stock very little variety at the end of the season, and you may find only main-stay chrysanthemums. How ordinary! 


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