A GROWING CONCERN: Thirteen ways your garden can’t lose

WELL, CAN YOU believe next Sunday is the beginning of September?

You’ve probably already noticed many of your plants getting past their peak or “giving up the ghost.”

Such is the transition between growing seasons.

Because all these spots are appearing and I heaped on the stress of being in this season and the next, let’s talk about the top 13 late summer and fall plants that will be proven winners for your yard for their care and ease.

Ornamental kale and cabbage

Let’s get it over with and start with the plea right away: The plants that are the magic of fall, even into winter, garden will be your kales and cabbages.

Beautiful colors and textures these gems give your yard the professional look. Get several (dozens even) of these as soon as you can find them. In the unrestricted flower pot or bed they only get bigger and bigger. They are great for fall window boxes.

The highlighters

White as an intense border or spot makes every other flower more true to its hue. There is no greater ability to use the highlighting effect than with the use of dusty miller (bi-annuals that last as a full-year plant) or new and magnificent creeping (oak-like leaf) perennial artemisia (silver brocade).

These plants are very economical for they are used in all your seasonal rotations and gardens all year-round.


The overlooked fall perennial — a small 4-inch plant this year can be a lovely 2 to 3 foot tall mound of 1,000 flowers next fall.

Great for a centerpiece to pots, planters or accent spots. Use these plants for cut flower value and they are very perennial.


The old guard. New varieties, spoon tails, new colors and the fact that they bloom in every range from early to late fall make these plants a must. Try the new and huge Belgian pot mums for intense November blooms. But remember, get four or five plants.

Ornamental grasses

If you haven’t tried these, why not? Low maintenance, few bugs or diseases, self-producing stock, love dry sandy conditions, sway in the breezes, and are gorgeous with their flower tassels in the winter season.

So if nothing else, go hunt out Japanese blood grass for a superb red texture in the fall garden.


I have seen them in beautiful pots at numerous retailers around the Peninsula. If you are looking for a plant more prolific and superior to roses for cut flowers, their care and productivity, then fill up your whole yard with dahlias (seriously fill up the whole yard) — that is my pasture’s destiny.

A complete article on dahlia care will be coming in November to assist you with the care and storage of this perennial tuber.

Oriental lilies

They’re tall, finely chiseled in appearance, everyone glows over them and a cut separate stalk in the store (of less quality than your garden) costs $3 to $7. It is extremely hardy and easy to grow perennial bulb for the late summer garden. I personally grow over 500 every year for my clients’ complete summer displays.


Especially the big tall fall ones. With names like Autumn Joy, Brilliant and Bronze Wonder, these plants again offer more than just a breath taking flower head (composed of hundreds of little flowers). Their texture is a succulent, jade plant-type texture and their leaves give a waxy look especially noticeable in early spring.

They do not die, love to be neglected, like being in poor soil, feed all the various bee populations and bloom for a two month show.

Make a run on them. They are also inexpensive for their size.

Pansies and violas

The improvements on fall, winter, and hardy pansies have been astronomical and the color range of the wonderfully prolific “little cousin,” the viola, has been gratefully expanded to your heart’s desire.

These plants especially with the highlighters give any spot a Victorian charm. Another cost-effective way to cover the ground.


Here in our superb gardening conditions, they are not just spring plants. In fact, spring is just the growing season.

At first bloom, cut back and leaf stripping gives you award-winning August through October results.

When you see photos of Butchart Gardens’ roses and delphinium it is always a fall shot. Go there yourself and see — its a great excuse.

Euonymus (burning bush)

It gets it’s name for one reason, in the fall it burns a red glow with intense red foliage for a good 3 to 4 weeks.

Extremely interesting winged stems make this an ideal plant for a sculptured or intended look in the yard.

If you want fall accent, this is your plant. It comes in all sorts of colors, yellow, white, purple and variegated varieties, tall and short, too.

A red, orange, fall leaf tree

We get fall here on the Peninsula, so let’s celebrate it. Nature has supplied an over abundance of yellows and golds. So go get a red or orange color leaf response.

Numerous varieties of oaks are known for shades of red and burgundy.

Sweet gums are magnificent plants sought out for their fall colors.

The choices in maples are superb, from the always red Crimson King to our own stellar vine maple. Just give me some red and orange once a year for the next few years.

Grower’s choice

The best for last and the most fun. Go to your local nursery. Show them this list and say, “Pick me out something great not on the list.”

It is a superb way of building a relationship with your local greenhouse or nursery owner.

See you in September.


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] peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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