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Publication: Garden Guides
Planting for Autumn Color

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                       August 8, 2006

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Comment The Post Below...

Know Your Soil

Different soil types have different watering needs. You don't 
need to be a soil scientist to know how to water your soil 
properly. These tips can help.

* Loosen the soil around plants so it can quickly absorb 
water and nutrients. 

* Use a 1- to 2-inch protective layer of mulch on the soil 
surface above the root area. 

* Cultivating and mulching reduce evaporation and soil 
erosion. 

* Clay soil: Add organic material such as compost or peat 
moss. Till or spade to help loosen the soil. Since clay 
soil absorbs water very slowly, water only as fast as the 
soil absorbs the water. 

* Sandy soil: Add organic material to supplement sandy soil. 
Otherwise, the water can run through it so quickly that 
plants won't be able to absorb it. 

* Loam soil: The best kind of soil. It's a combination of 
sand, silt, and clay. Loam absorbs water readily and stores 
it for plants to use. 
 
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Planting for Autumn Color
By Terry L. Yockey

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 tall 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.

Turtlehead (Chelone), Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and Rudbeckia 
'Goldstrum'  in my October garden.
  
Goldenrod is very popular in Europe, but hasn't caught on 
here in the US. It's a shame because it is very hardy, dries 
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 named "Joe Pye Weed." At 4 to 6 feet tall, 
Eupatorium makes an imposing statement in the fall garden. 
It has huge rosy pink flowerheads that are a butterfly 
favorite. 

Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstonne' is another imposing autumn 
bloomer.  'Herstonne' can reach 7 to 8 feet and has large 5 
inch wide yellow blossoms.  The yellow petals droop downward 
accentuating the bright green central cone. 

A "Perennial of the Year", Russian Sage (Perovskia) has such 
a long flowering season that it is usually going strong well 
into the fall. It has fragrant silvery gray foliage and 
blooms with an airy quality reminiscent of baby's breath. 

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 prove to be more obedient. 

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Catmint 'Felix'
Park Seed

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.

 
Bergenia 'Rose'
Park Seed
 
Catmint (Nepeta) starts blooming in late spring and is 
usually still going strong in the fall.  To ensure a repeat 
bloom, shear all the spent blossoms off when it first 
finishes. There are several varieties, but my favorite is 
the species faassenii which is a low silvery edger. They all 
have a distinctive fragrance and are relatives of the smell-
ier catnip.

I plant Bergenia for the brilliant red color the 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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