Plant in Spring for
an abundance of Autumn Beauty!
We often hear from clients about how
disappointed they are in their gardens in autumn. One reason for
this is that most gardeners do their plant shopping in the spring
and summer and tend to purchase and bring home to their gardens
plants that are blooming or looking great at the time of their
visit. This means that a lot of very worthy fall blooming plants are
consistently passed over because they are in their glory in the
autumn, when the garden center is for the most part quiet. A bit of
planning will get these autumn beauties into your garden so that
fall in your garden can be as satisfying as spring and summer.
Consider adding a few of these fall show-stoppers to your garden
this spring. Spring planting means that they will have the entire
growing season to get established and develop a healthy root system
so - come fall - they can be their beautiful best.
Deep blue hooded flowers on sturdy
stems to 5' in height in late autumn. Glossy foliage remains
attractive throughout season. Caution: all parts are highly toxic
(which makes it deer & rabbit resistant).
Amsonia (Blue Stars)
Although this plant is a late spring bloomer (silvery-blue star like flowers that combine beautifully with Siberian Iris) it also provides an outstanding autumn foliage display
. The golden foliage is always an eye-catcher in our growing fields and this is one of the few perennials that looks as great in October as it does in May!
is a rock-hardy Midwestern native that is a long-lived backbone
plant for the perennial border. The Perennial Plant association has
named Threadleaf Amsonia
Perennial Plant of the Year for 2011.
Pink or white blossoms on tall wiry stems in
There are a number of newer Asters available that combine late bloom with excellent foliage (none of the "brown ankle syndrome" that is often seen in New England Asters).
Among them are the A. oblongifolius cultivars 'October Skies' and
An impressively large back-of-the-border plant
completely covered in masses of tiny white daisies in autumn. This
is a large scale plant with a loose habit so give it lots of room or
plan on staking.
A dwarf white form, Calamintha nepetoides 'Montrose White', is a
mass of airy white flowers for eight weeks or more in late summer
fall (added bonus: the rabbits & deer won't touch it!). This
photo was taken in early November!
Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' bears spikes of hooded pink flowers for
many weeks in autumn held above glossy foliage that remains
attractive right up until hard frost. It will grow in sun or shade
and as such is valuable for bringing late season bloom to the shade
Showy "mums", forced for autumn show are great seasonal additions but are best thought of as annuals. There are truly hardy fall blooming Chrysanthemums,
now known as Dendranthemums., that will bloom year after year with
daisy-like flowers in late fall. Pinching until early July will
provide a tighter, more compact habit.
Cimicifuga (Fairy Candles or
Tall spires of white bottlebrush-like flowers top the green
foliage of Cimicifuga simplex in autumn. There are also a number of
dark leaf forms that are particularly stunning, especially when
combined with yellow or chartreuse foliage in the shade garden.
Two fall bloomers stand out in the autumn. Clematis paniculata (now C.
terniflora), the "Sweet Autumn Clematis", has masses of tiny fragrant white flowers in fall. Clematis
heracleifolia is a bush type that bears true blue hanging bells in September.
Corydalis (Yellow Bleeding Heart)
This trooper is still blooming prolifically in fall, as it has been since early June!
Our native Joe-Pye-Weed holds its heads of mauve-colored flowers
high above the ground on 8'-10' stems in autumn. The "dwarf"
selection E. 'Gateway' stands at a modest 5'-6' tall and
sports darker colored flower heads and rich purple-red stems. This
plants is a valuable late season nectar source for butterflies and
is often covered with them.
Although this plant is a spring bloomer it bears mentioning here
simply for its valuable slug-resistant foliage, which looks as
pristine in September as it did in May. Bonus : the rabbits & deer
won't eat it either! A great groundcover plant for difficult shaded sites!
Geranium x 'Biokova' &
Created by crossing the above Geranium with a dainty glossy leafed
rock garden species called Geranium dalmaticum this
best-of-both-worlds hybrid is an excellent all-season charmer.
Glossy foliage forms compact mound that turns a brilliant red in
autumn. Spring flowering ('Biokova'=blush white, 'Karmina'=bright
The fluffy plumes of Miscanthus are the show-stealers but all the grasses look fabulous in the autumn.
Calamogrostis 'Brachytricha', the lesser-known cousin of the ever
popular 'Karl Foerster' is a special autumn garden favorite of ours
at The Farm.
There are a number of very nice late summer & fall blooming
Helianthus. All bear golden-yellow flowers on tall stems.
Hibiscus (Rose Mallow)
Huge dinner plate-sized flowers in a wide range of colors are a great send-off to the gardening season. It's difficult to believe that anything this tropical looking can be hardy in Wisconsin (…but it is)!
Remember, though, that it is very late to break dormancy in spring
(often not showing grown until mid June) so don't give up on it!
Kirengeshoma (Yellow Waxbells)
One of our favorite plants for the shade garden, this shrub-like perennial has large showy maple-like foliage and heavy waxy yellow buds that open to hanging yellow bells in September and October.
Nepeta 'Souvenir D'Andre'
This outstanding cultivar has been blooming steadily since June and will continue well into October. Blue flowers attract Hummingbirds by the dozens!
Perovskia (Russian Sage)
Powder blue flowers over silver foliage. A "must have" for the fall border.
If you find the straight species too "floppy", there are is a more
upright cultivar ('Longin') as well as a more compact form (' Little
') available. Highly scented silvery foliage is unattractive to deer
Persicaria 'Firetails' & 'Golden
Wiry spires of raspberry colored flowers start
blooming in August and continue through frost. 'Golden Fleece'
(pictured) also offers brilliant chartreuse foliage.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
The classic symbol of autumn in the flower border. Another definite "must-have".
Extremely popular for good reason. Combines beautifully with
Americans are finally starting to appreciate this native beauty! New cultivars are absolutely NOT invasive and many (in particular the aptly named 'Fireworks') are excellent autumn performers.
Tricyrtis (Toad Lily)
Kids love this plant for its name and adults value it for its unusual
orchid-like flowers and late season of bloom. Plant this one close to a pathway or patio as the exotic flowers deserve close observation.