A GROWING CONCERN: Set the stage for a show-stopping autumn

LAST WEEK, I promised articles on “right plant — right place” and I will be giving you a list next week on how one can determine that.

But right now it is only day four of early/early-autumn.

Color in your yard now is the right plant for the right time.

This time of year is also the ideal time to plant many a botanical wonder.

To this end, here is my list of 13 magnificent ornamentals to plant now for a spectacular fall.

(Remember, peat moss and bone meal are the miracle drugs of gardening.)

1. Kales and cabbages.

These are one of my favorite ornamentals, and I don’t understand why some people don’t like them.

Plant now, they will last until next April or May.

As the weather gets colder, they get brighter, needing several frosts to achieve full grandeur.

When mixed evergreen boughs are arranged around them, a knockout holiday display is created.

If smell is the only objection, remove the old yellow leaves each week.

2. Garden mums, Belgian pot mums.

Garden mums are the staple of the fall garden.

You can find them in any fall color.

After you pick up garden mums, each one of you must find or demand Belgian pot mums.

These very hardy mums are compact, wide and notable for their late blooms.

When your normal mums finish after October, your Belgians will take over and bloom through December.

3. Heathers.

Heathers are another plant with hundreds of varieties.

They are easy to grow, extremely hardy and offer a large array of colors in bloom and foliage.

Heathers begin looking great in November and many varieties bloom in winter.

Find the red, yellow, bronze and copper foliage, and use in accent areas.

Create great fall containers with them in conjunction with kales, cabbages, grasses, pansies and Dusty Miller.

4. Sedums.

Now here is probably one of the most under-used families of plants around.

Sedum exist in hundreds of varieties, tall, short, miniature, creeping, evergreen and many with variegated leaves.

Most display a very nice fall foliage color.

Many bloom now, others bloom in late fall or winter.

They are perennial, reproduce fast, transplant easily, are drought tolerant and get few (if any) bugs or diseases.

Get no less than four sedum types.

5. Violas and pansies.

The plant breeders are extremely active in this field of flowers, creating new colors and breeding in incredible hardness.

With the introduction of winter varieties, pansies and violas planted now can bloom until next spring.

And when you combine dainty violas with various pansies, a great wave of color can be created.

6. Dusty Miller and Artemisia.

Both these plants are botanical highlighters. Known and grown for lush, pubescent white foliage, any color stands out when planted next to them.

Also prized for their foliage texture and shape, dusty Miller and Artemisia add a completely different element to the garden.

They are very hardy plants.

7. Snapdragons.

I am completely amazed at how few people actually have these perfect plants in their yards.

Most are biannual (live and bloom for two years) and some are perennial.

Snapdragons bloom from April through November because they are very cool tolerant and many varieties produce excellent, sturdy, cut flowers.

Find them now in 4- or 6-inch pots for height accents.

8. Asters.

Again, plant breeders have been busy, and the results are new, vivid colors.

Asters are extremely hardy, very tough (they take our bugs, weather and molds very well) and expand naturally.

They tend to bloom in late September through November.

A flowering 4-inch pot here will produce a 2 foot wide and 2 to 3 feet high burst of color next fall.

9. Dianthus and carnations.

Like snapdragons, carnations are a great perennial or biannual that blooms early, late and often.

Since these plants are very cool tolerant, they bloom very well into fall and start early next spring.

They add great color in the fall garden and make for nice arrangements in the home.

10. Ornamental grasses.

These plants are not only perfect as the center point to fall pots and containers, but are ideal in your garden.

Tough, disease resistant, drought tolerant and easy to grow, ornamental grasses shine during fall and winter.

They come in a full range of colors — blue, yellow, read, copper, yellow variegated— and heights—miniatures 2-inches high, up to 9-foot-tall pampas grass.

11. Basket stuffers.

Many of these plants used in summer baskets are perfect for autumn plantings because they are so cool tolerant.

Seek out vinca vine, creeping Jimmy, creeping Charlie — even nemesia.

Enjoy these beautiful autumn days and travel to several nurseries or greenhouses in order to acquire a good variety.

12. Fall re-bloomers.

Go to your favorite plant outlet and look for spring perennials on sale.

Many plants like daisy, delphinium, lupine, columbine or ornamental thistle re-bloom even better during the Peninsula’s fall.

13. Drop dead fall leaves.

I want everyone every year to get at least one new fall foliage bush, tree or shrub — everyone!

Because of our climate and elevation, we could eventually rival New England in fall brilliance.

In a forthcoming article we’ll talk about the 13 bush, trees or shrubs with the most colorful leaves.

And above all … stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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