By Kristen Hamilton
Having a great autumn garden takes a little work, but with that little bit of work you will reap wonderful rewards.
By the time September rolls around, many of our annuals are starting to look a little faded and need to be changed. Late August is a wonderful time to fill your annual planters with mums and ornamental kale. Mix in some interesting grasses and you’ll have a stunning display for the front entrance of your home or cottage.
The trick to keeping your garden in tiptop shape well into the fall is to deadhead and keep weeding. By late August or early September we start to get limited blooms in the garden, but with the right selection of plants you can still have a wonderful display.
I like to add sneezeweed, also known as Helen’s Flower, which comes in shades of yellow, orange and red. My purple coneflowers usually continue to flower into the fall if I’m constantly deadheading them. Other perennials such as the shasta daisies may have a few blooms left on them but don’t expect to get a great display from them in the fall.
Other selections for the fall garden include sedum autumn joy, with its large flower heads and clusters of tiny pink flowers turning to red as the season progresses. Asters and black-eyed Susans are also popular, but remember that deer like to nibble on all of the above-mentioned perennials.
I’ve had a lot of luck with different types of ornamental grasses; the deer seem to stay away from them. Grasses add wonderful fall color and create a stunning backdrop to any perennial garden.
This year I planted three large clumps of orange flame grass in my perennial garden to act as a focal point. They’re just starting to get wonderful plumes on top. As the fall weather approaches the tall blades of grass will start to turn a reddish orange.
Shrubs make a great addition to any garden. In the fall there are some wonderful shrubs that add just the right amount of color. The fragrant sumac and burning bush add beautiful shades of red. Another great shrub that the deer seem to stay away from is the bareberry. Its red to purple leaves and golden berries make it a lovely accent.
Keeping the garden well weeded will limit the amount of work that will need to be done in the spring. Digging out some of those pesky perennial weeds like the crown vetch will help slow down its reappearance in the spring.
Another great way to keep your gardens looking stunning is to keep edging. Maintaining the garden edge will discourage grass from creeping in and taking root in the garden soil. It also helps to keep the soil and mulch in place.
As we get closer to winter it becomes time to start cutting back your perennials. I like to cut everything back in the fall because I find that there are just too many other projects to do in my spring garden.
It’s always a good idea in the autumn to clean up any fallen leaves, just in case they stay the winter and bring diseases or bugs that could cause a problem for next year’s gardening season.
Don’t forget to give the garden soil a really good cultivating so that it won’t get overly compacted through the winter. If you don’t have a cultivator, just use a shovel to mix the soil. Remember to dig up any bulbs you don’t want spending the winter in the ground, such as the cana lily bulb.
Plant your spring flowering bulbs this fall. Daffodils are a great for color in the spring and the deer won’t eat them. Be careful planting tulips though because deer love to munch on the buds. If you really want some tulips in your spring garden and have deer troubles, try planting a few clumps closer to the front entrance of your home. The deer may not want to come that close.
The fall is a great time to get some really good deals at our local garden centres. If a plant looks a little beaten up, don’t worry. Just give it a little love and next year it will look brand new.
Huntsville native Kristen Hamilton (nee Suddaby) has more than just a green thumb; she’s also a certified Landscape Technician. Hamilton has a BA in Applied Science as well, with a major in landscape.