There is a nip in the air and the hours of sunlight grow shorter. Leaves are beginning to get a little color, the corn in the fields has turned a golden brown, and summer is quickly becoming only a memory. The once bright annuals are beginning to look ragged and most perennials have bloomed.
But there is still time for one last hurrah in the garden. The old standby are the spicy smelling colorful mums that add the last of the season color and cheer. Most mums sold in stores and nurseries are Belgian mums, plants with hundreds of flowers in a round mound of color. These mums are often sold as ‘hardy’ and sometimes are sold as early, mid and late blooming. Belgian mums are most often, in our climate, not truly hardy. It is best to treat them as an annual and toss them after they have bloomed.
There are truly hardy perennial mums available, and can be purchased in garden catalogs. A favorite truly hardy mum of mine is a pink daisy-like mum, called Clara Curtis that blooms in late September and often blooms into early November! There are a few varieties and colors to choose from. I have had good luck buying the perennial mums from a company called Select Seeds. They are often tall and not as compact and showy as the Belgian mums.
Another very popular flower are the sweet smelling pansies. They will tolerate light frosts and can bloom into November. In the last several years black and orange pansies have been sold under the names of ‘Trick or Treat’ or “Halloween.’ I have planted these bewitching flowers in a large plastic cauldron, and they are perfect for the season of witches, ghosts and goblins!
Ornamental Cabbage and Kale, also know as ‘Flowering Cabbage and Kale’ are great companions for a container of mums and pansies. These thick leafy vegetables have a colorful center which becomes more intense as the temperatures drop. They will hold up to light frosts and can look great until mid November.
Annual grasses, and perennials like purple leafed Sedum, and purple and bronzed leafed Coral Bells also look great in fall containers.
Don’t forget yellow Goldenrod, New England Asters, purple Iron Weeds, and Joe Pye Weed, Toad Lilies, and Monkshood (also called Aconite) in the perennial flower beds. I have a large clump of Monkshood that blooms late into October. The tall blue hooded flowers have a rich history in folklore. Old texts in the Middle Ages describes Monkshood as a protection against Werewolves. I always point the flower out to the little trick and treaters and explain the myths and uses of the flowers. Many have recognized it from the Harry Potter books and films.
A swig or two of wild orange Bittersweet and a collection of different varieties and colors of pumpkins and gourds are the final touch for a lovely fall arrangement!
So before the temperatures really takes a nose dive and the snow flies, plant a container or two of colorful autumn plants before our gardens settle in for their long winter’s nap!
Born and raised in Ohio Rick presently lives in an old house in a small central Ohio town, famous for its giant gourds. Rick comes from a family of avid gardeners. Now retired, he had the privilege to work with people with disabilities for over thirty years. His tiny city garden is crammed with an assortment or a collection of plants. During the long cold Ohio winters he continues gardening in the house and in his small backyard greenhouse. He is passionate about plants and writing. In his youth he traveled the world. The diversity of plants around the world is amazing! He especially enjoyed my time teaching in a bush school in Africa and spending a summer with the legendary Masai Tribe on the Serengeti Plain. For years, he has enjoyed the study of the ancient uses for plants and herbs. Many cultures today still believe in the magical qualities of plants. Grow a tomato, a tree, or plant some tulip bulbs, or grow some herbs in your kitchen window. It will make you feel good and you will be making our world a better place!