Late-Season Garden Planning
If you need some inspiration for planning a garden that goes full steam from early fall through early winter, get some help from Autumn Gardens, by Ethne Clarke (Soma Books, 1999; $35). It's full of spectacular color photos and provides suggestions for a wealth of combinations of foliage, flowers, grasses, berries, and bark that keeps the color coming right into winter.
Favorite or New Plant
Despite its confusing common name, sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) doesn't really make you sneeze. It is an intensely colored, daisy-like perennial flower that's a reliable bloomer in my late-summer and autumn garden. My favorite variety is H. autumnale 'Moerheim Beauty' because its rich, brownish red flowers fade to a burnt orange as the season ends. But don't overlook the common sneezeweed with its bright yellow flowers. It, too, adds wonderful color to the fall garden.
Sneezeweed can be planted as an accent or as a background plant. Some plants can grow up to 5 feet tall and may need support, so I place stakes around the plants when they're young. To keep them vigorous and healthy, divide them every three to four years in spring after the soil has warmed.
Plant sneezeweed in full sun in well-amended soil. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly -- especially during dry spells, and mulch to help conserve soil moisture.