Perennial Picks for Fall

Column, Kristen Hamilton

Fall is my favorite time of year. The air smells fresh and crisp and wonderful produce is ready to harvest. We’ve had all summer to enjoy our perennial gardens, watching them grow and bloom. Now with fall approaching, we can watch the changes in our garden that take place in the later months of summer. Soon, the sneezeweed will be blooming along with hydrangeas, black-eyed Susans and turtlehead.

Fall is a great time to add perennials to your garden, so take advantage of the deals at garden centers. You can count on Mother Nature to water your garden, which gives your plants the moisture they need to get through the winter months.

A few of my fall favorites are turtlehead, hydrangeas, black-eyed Susans and Helen’s flower.

Turtlehead is a wonderful perennial to add to any garden. I love the fact that you don’t notice it all summer, and then one morning in the fall you wake up and are amazed at the wonderful pink flowers it produces. It tolerates both sun and shade and has very sturdy stems that never require staking. The only down side is that deer really love to nibble on it.

Helen’s flower is also called sneezeweed; it flowers late in the fall with orange, yellow and red daisy-shaped flower heads. Its flowers bloom on top of sturdy stems and are attractive to butterflies.

Another popular fall perennial pick is the black-eyed Susan with its bright yellow flowers and brown centre. Goldstrum is a great variety to look for when shopping. They look great in masses or drifts and they are somewhat deer resistant.

Sedum or stonecrop is very hardy and is a true indication that fall is on its way. When the flower heads start to turn a hint of pink you know cooler weather is just around the corner. Sedums prefer full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Autumn joy is your best bet for fall color in the garden, with large flower heads starting out pink and darkening to a deep bronze.

A few other great perennial picks for late summer are summer phlox, bee balm, day lily and liatris. Bugbane, also known as black snakeroot, is another interesting addition. Bugbanes have lacy foliage similar to astible leaves. They have tall, white flower stalks that remind me of bottle bushes that last into October. They tolerate full sun to partial shade and work great as a woodland plant.

Another interesting addition to any garden would be ligularia. With its large leaves it makes a great specimen plant or backdrop to your perennial garden. The flowers are spikes or clusters of daisy-like blooms, which are yellow. I’ve never seen deer eat ligularia, so it would be a great plant to add to your garden if you struggle with deer problems.

A project that I like to tackle in the fall is transplanting and dividing perennial clumps because throughout the summer you’ve seen how your garden grows and what needs to be changed. Remember, your perennials should be divided every three to five years. You may even notice that the perennial clump has thinned out or died in the middle, which is a very good indication that it’s time to divide.

To make the process a little easier, make sure you have the right tools on hand. Some perennial clumps can be very difficult to divide. A gardener friend of mine once had to use an axe to split a clump of ornamental grass! Handy tools are: shovels with sharpened edges, pitch forks and yes, maybe an axe. Also be sure to have the garden hose ready to water plants once they’ve been moved.

I really enjoy being able to divide my perennials to share with friends. That way you’ll always have a story to tell about where certain plants came from.

Completing a fall clean up and preparing the perennials for winter is a great idea, too. I like to cut back all my perennials because it makes things easier in the spring. I clean up all the leaves, empty all my flowerpots and put away any garden art that might get damaged. After all the hard work is completed, you can relax for the winter months and start dreaming of the garden projects you want to tackle next year.

Kristen Hamilton 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.

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