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Publication: Garden Guides
Planting for Fall Color

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Garden Guides Newsletter
November 14, 2006


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Fall is not a helpless time for next year’s garden. This is a
great way to give many of your new garden plants a years head
start on becoming a mature and beautiful addition to your
garden. Bulbs are a mainstay of the spring garden, but need
the vernalization (over-wintering) to flower then, so now is
the time to plant them! Pick the bulbs that work for your area
and climate and make sure to follow instructions on depth and
placement. Summer flowering bulbs could go in the spring,
but this is still a good time.

Happy Gardening!

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Planting for Fall Color

When autumn comes some people are already thinking about next
season and putting this year's gardens to bed. If you have
planned ahead, your garden can still be going strong when
others are done blooming. Most can't resist at least one of
those gorgeous mums that are beckoning to us at every nursery
but there are many other perennials that can lengthen the
blooming season

My favorite late-bloomers are two of the sedums 'Autumn Joy'
and 'Brilliant.' These are not the low-growing groundcovers
you may be accustomed to, but can grow from 12 to 24 inches
high. They aren't invasive but stay in a compact clump. Autumn
Joy has large, flat blossoms that start light pink and darken
all season. Brilliant has bright hot pink flowers that last
well in cut flower arrangements. Both are very popular with
bees and butterflies.

Goldenrod is very popular in Europe, but hasn't caught on here
in the US. It's a shame because it is very hardy, drys well,
and is drought resistant. Maybe it's the myth that it causes
hay fever (it's really the ragweed!) that has kept gardeners
here from growing it. Plant goldenrod in a dry, sunny,
location with average fertility. Some good new cultivars are
'Golden Fleece,' 'Fireworks,' and 'Lemore.'

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If you have a large perennial bed try a native North American
plant called "Joe Pye Weed." At 4 to 6 feet tall, Eupatorium
makes an imposing statement in the fall garden. It has rosy
pink flowers and is a good choice for a dry area of your
garden. Another 6 foot tall autumn perennial is helianthus or
perennial sunflower. Don't expect it to look like the annual
sunflower--instead of one stem with a large flower head they
have many branches with smaller bright yellow blossoms.

A "Perennial of the Year" last year, Russian Sage (Perovskia)
has such a long flowering season that it is usually going
strong well into the fall. It has silvery gray foliage and
blooms with an airy quality reminiscent of baby's breath. I've
seen it rated hardy only to zone 5 (we're 4), but with mulch
it should come through our winters with flying colors.

Physostegia or obedient plant is another late summer bloomer.
It gets it's name because supposedly you can bend it any way
you like and it will stay that way. It never does for me--but
maybe yours will! I bought a variegated type last summer which
adds interest to the border even when not in bloom.

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New England Asters are an easy to grow perennial that blooms
well into October. The daisy-like flowers range in color from
purples and lavenders all the way to roses and pinks. They are
a good back of the border flower because they have a tendency
to sprawl, and will usually grow to about 3 to 4 ft tall. Like
mums they benefit from division at least every other year. Cut
off the healthy outside shoots and replant them, then discard
the woody center.

Catmint is a spring perennial that gives a repeat performance
in the fall. To make it bloom again shear the spent blossoms
off when it first finishes. There are several varieties, my
favorite is the variety 'faassenii' which is a low silvery
edger. They all have a distinctive fragrance and are relatives
of the smellier catnip.

I plant bergenia for the brilliant red color it's large fleshy
leaves turn in autumn. Visitors in the fall usually notice
it's vivid red color before anything else in the garden. It's
a good groundcover for almost any area--even a dry shady one.
The only pest it has is slugs, who love to come out at night
and chew a few holes right in the middle of each leaf!

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