Autumn garden displays bring us thoughts of hay bales, pumpkins, cornstalks and mums. But the sustainably minded gardener uses these as accents versus focal in their seasonal garden designs. A number of well chosen perennial selections can sustain your garden season while providing you with long term value.
I fell in love with the autumn clematis, shown here, a few years back. This is an incredibly underused perennial in our region. This vine provides remarkable blossom and display from September to October. Its tiny white flower and leaf texture are a welcome addition to the fall garden. During its first week’s of bloom it gives off a powerful sweet fragrance, absent in traditional fall gardens. It is an aggressive grower so consider your placement carefully. I like to use it near outdoor living areas and daily pathways to enjoy its unique fragrance. Its upright habit provides me great vertical options in my designs.
The sedum family of perennials is also a great choice for gardeners interested in sustainability. Their growing habits give you many placement options in your designs. Most folks are familiar with the Autumn Joy variety. It is incredibly overused in repeated applications throughout our area….along with the Stella Doro daylily….boring! I like to spice things up with purple emperor and creeping varieties, giving me a range of colors outside the standard red. And these are not only great performers this time of year, their value in divisions over the years offer you more bang for your buck!
And don’t forget the cone varieties! Again we commonly think of the native purple cone or Black-eyed Susan’s as our only option in our gardens. Today’s cone family boast a phenomenal range of colors from red, gold, yellow, vanilla, white, lime and every shade of purple in between! You can also find varieties in bloom, size, texture and habit. I love the double blooms that sprout a funky little petal off the center cone! And this time of year they serve the environment as great pollinators! They also reseed, so you can use these for naturalizing large areas.
And yes, mums are always a good choice when properly planted and cared for throughout the season. A garden I maintained in Saratoga Springs over a 5 year period boasts mums that grew to shrub size! Those on display currently at the National Museum of Dance entry gardens are 4 years old. I prefer the locally field grown, versus the hot house variety as a rule. They have better staying power from year to year. The marketplace offers a host of varieties in mums now. Blooms range from daisy like, to traditional and neat color combinations that infuse nicely into your display schemes.
It is possible to extend and enrich your gardens during the autumn months. You will enjoy the show this season and in your future gardens with sustainable thinking and practices. Happy Fall Gardening!