Seems as soon as the labor day weekend passes, gardens tend to show their seasonal wear and tear. The leaves of many of my perennials transition quickly from a lush green to shades of yellow and brown, while my perennial blooms diminish. When the leaves begin to turn on your garden bones, the shrubs and trees, you can indeed keep the colors and interest in your Fall garden with a little planning next year.
As North Country gardeners, we often overlook our late season garden performers. The long and often brutally cold winters have us longing for immediate color and interest in our spring and early summer gardens. Immediate “garden gratification” tends to guide our plant selections and forget about the need for continuing that palette variety late summer and Fall. We presume mums will give us that immediate end of season splash. But I would challenge you to consider plant selections outside the “fall mum box”.
I often consider shrubs the “bones of my gardens. Their upright habitat give strength and solid visual to your low lying perennials. Many gardeners use the burning bush to give them the rich red color of fall. But a great alternative is the Andromedia.. This sturdy shrub has a more interesting habitat, leaf shape, spring bloom and brilliant red color compliment. I have had great success with the Dorothy Wyckoff variety in our region.
Hydrangea Paniculata is an anchor in my gardens. Many gardeners gravitate to the Endless Summer variety hyrdrangeas (macrophylla) but they just don’t provide the late season performance found in the paniculata varieties. They transition of colors in the mopheads from white, to pink to red (depending on your variety) brings the garden back to life late in the season. 2016 has been an incredible year for these hydrangeas.
With reserve, I also suggest holly varieties. I mention these with caution as they tend to take a hit during the winter in our area. But in protected sites, the lush green, shiny leaf and red berry along with the interesting leaf texture, can serve as a great backdrop for your fall gardens.
It is difficult to find vine perennials that can give you continual late season interest. So I love the snow drift clematis. Not only do you get the spectacular blossom for several weeks, but their fragrance will be a welcome element during the waning days of your garden season.
Asters and Autumn Joy sedums are generally your go to perennials for your late season displays. The red and purple blooms really pop and compliment the infusion of mums. Consider some of the other sedum varieties to move the needle a bit. Vera James, Razzle Dazzle and Bloodgood varieties will give you colorful mid and front border options.
A great plant that will give you leaf color and texture is the liriope. This plant is available in solid and variegated leaf varieties. When your hosta is turning yellow the liriope will continue to stand out even after light frosts. In part shade applications, you cannot beat the coral bells family (heuchera) for color and interest. The new varieties can keep colors like peach, red, purple, lime, yellow and white in the garden palette well through October.
The rudbeckias and coneflowers are good choices for late performers, but dry heat and humidity in late summer can often take it’s toll on these. I have preferred to use the Montaux Daisy for my late season selection. The white bloom, along with green upright stem and leaf keep the garden fresh with color.
Take a moment to survey your garden now, and determine where you might add these late performers next year to extend your season of enjoyment. As always, keeping garden practices “sensible and sustainable”.