Summer flower gardens sparkle in cheery runways of bright color brought from waves of petunias, zinnia, lantana and marigolds, along with a host of other summer dazzlers. As summer starts to wind down and the season for these beauties comes to a close, the garden is ready to show off its fall wardrobe.
Two of the most recognizable fall flowers are chrysanthemums, commonly just called mums, and aster.
Chrysanthemums come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. The following examples bloom from early to late fall and grow between 24 to 36 inches.
“Homecoming” changes color through its bloom time, from salmon to soft peach and finally creamy yellow. “Coppersmith” has bright copper-bronze blooms, “Volunteer” is a stunner of rich red, “Debutante” steps out in bright fuchsia and “Indian Summer” has large, globular blooms in warm vibrant shades of orange.
“Lemon Baby” and “Honeycomb” are smaller, button-style mums that only grow between 16 and 24 inches but pack a visual punch due to their multi-head growth habit. “Lemon Baby” is a yellow mum, while “Honeycomb” features a copper-bronze color.
Aster, part of the sunflower family, typically blooms in shades of pink and purple; however, cultivars have been developed in shades of blue and red. They range in size from 1 to 8 feet and are very attractive to butterflies, birds and bees.
“Prof. Anton Kippenberg” is a petite, lilac blue aster that blooms from late summer to mid-fall. “Royal Ruby” produces semi-double, mulberry-red blooms on a compact bushy plant from later summer to early fall.
“Purple Dome” has daisy-like, brilliant purple blooms that grow 1 to 2 feet tall and “Grunder” boasts deep, violet-blue blooms that reach a height of 2 feet, while “September Ruby” has rich, burgundy-purple blooms and bushy dark green leaves that can grow between 3 and 4 feet tall. Award-winning “Fellowship” has large, pale pink, double flowers that are stunning from late summer to late fall.
Although mums and aster are striking on their own, when planted with other complimentary fall perennials and annuals, the fall garden can rival its summer counterpart.
• Stonecrop (Sedum): Notable variety “Autumn Joy” starts off pink and deepens to russet-red in fall. Grows between 1 to 2 feet in height;
• False Aster (Boltonia): Daisy-like flowers of white, pink or purple surround a small, yellow, button center. The abundant tiny blooms cover the massive 5- to 6-foot plant from midsummer to early fall.
• Obedient Plant (False dragonhead): Growing 3–4 feet in height and 2–3 feet wide, the white, pink or lavender blooms appear on long spikes, opening from the bottom to top, lasting through fall.
• Balloon Flower: Small balloon-like buds lend to this flower’s name. The buds open to become star-like flowers in shades of violet, blue, pink or white.
• Sneezeweed: Its daisy-like flowers come in rich fall shades of red, yellow, orange, copper and russet.
• Japanese Anemone: This blooms from late summer until frost with white or pink paper-like petals.
• Joe Pye Weed: The native shrub grows in erect clumps up to 5 feet in height and is great for use as a backdrop. It has large clusters of tiny mauve flowers with a sweet vanilla scent.
• Dahlia: They bloom in a wide range of colors and shapes. Planted in spring, they will bloom in summer and last through fall. Deadheading helps to encourage more blooms. “Karma Corona” with its yellow and peach, and “Karma Choc” with its chocolate and red, are beautiful additions to the fall garden.
• Zinnia: Zinnia provide non-stop color from the moment they are planted until first frost. Fall standouts include “Big Red,” “Queeny Lime Orange,” “Color Crackle,” “Profusion Apricot” and “Crystal White.”
• Geraniums: This is another summer bloomer that lasts into fall. There are more than 300 species of geraniums in a wide range of color, foliage, scent and size. They range in size from a petite 6 inches to several feet tall. Geraniums are not cold hardy but are easy to overwinter and propagate.
• Coleus: Coleus range in color from bright yellow-green to hot pink to dark burgundy. Standouts for fall include “Campfire” in burnt orange, “Sedona Sunset” in rich bronze, “Rediculous” in deep red and “Kong Rose,” which has deep purple centers surrounded by light green edges.
Ornamental grasses, whether perennial or annual, can add texture, height and color. “Purple Fountain Grass,” an annual, has tan plumes on top of 3- to 5-foot stalks. “Japanese blood grass,” a perennial, only grows 12 to 18 inches tall; however, the red tips on their foliage are brilliant.
“Beyond Blue” fescue, another perennial, is another low-growing grass that is perfect for borders. “New Zealand” wind grass, also a perennial, has a mounding 3- to 4-foot form that changes from green-gold to bronze in fall, then turns deep orange-brown in winter.
As poet Stanley Horowitz said, “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer and oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” Until next week, happy gardening.
— Irland, a member of the Limestone County Master Gardeners, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://mg.aces.edu/limestone for more information on the Limestone County Master Gardeners.