When your hanging baskets are hanging just a little more than you want, and your petunias have gone stringy, it's time to assess a sprucing-up – think about replacing them with reliable fall blooming plants. Here are our top perennials for fall colour:
1. New England asters
The cultivated varieties are related to the native plant, only they flower longer, and the blooms are arranged in tight masstes for best effect. Butterflies love these, too. Plant lots where you want to punch up the colour using bright white, red or blue. Yes, blue. It's hard to find perennials with a blue flower this time of year, but asters are your number one choice. They are winter hardy north of Ottawa, too.
2. Sedum Spectabilus
There are many sedum varieties to choose from, but "spectacle" is a favourite this time of year. This plant produces a broad flower in various colours covering the range between red/bronze and magenta. We recommend that you plant a few up near the front door where butterflies will find them. As you approach the front door, you will be greeted by a winged greeting committee as they forage for nectar and pollen.
The introduction of Belgium mums 25 years ago means more affordable varieties of this flower today. Now you can purchase a gorgeous garden mum for less than the old-fashioned ones, with a flower bud count that is through the roof. Really. Mark had one last year at the front door, and he counted more than 700 blossoms on it. That's about two cents per blossom. You can't get better value for your bloom-bucks than that. In cool fall weather, they last up to six weeks. They tolerate early season frost, and with some luck, they may come back next year. They are not as reliably winter hardy as the asters.
We think of roses as late spring and early summer flowering plants – people use them in June weddings for this reason. That is accurate, but rose bushes generally bloom a second time quite reliably, right about now. The main difference in a fall rose blossom is that it lasts much longer than the spring production, due to the cool temperatures this time of year.
We have picked roses and brought them indoors as cut flowers as late as mid-November. A bonus is that you can get a great deal on rose bushes this time of year at most garden retailers. All you have to do is prepare the soil with lots of triple mix and plant them. Rose petals are edible – another bonus. Shrub roses will survive our winter without protection; most others need to be mounded up with about 30 cm of soil, but not for some time yet – early to mid-November works in most areas.
Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada. He reaches more than two million Canadians with his gardening/environment messages every week. Ben Cullen is a professional gardener with a keen interest in food gardening and the environment. You can follow both Mark and Ben on Twitter (@MarkCullen4), Facebook (facebook.com/MarkCullenGardening
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