In the Garden:
An October bouquet can be as lush as in midsummer.
Nature is extravagantly dressed this year -- clothed in more than the reds and oranges and golds of the maples and sumacs and other woody plants. The annual and perennial flowers in my garden are still blooming like there's no tomorrow, or at least no frost in sight. The weather report suggests a chill is coming so last night before dinner I went outside to pick a last bouquet of zinnias (I've picked several "last bouquets" already this fall). Everywhere I looked there were flowers looking as fresh as in midsummer: dahlias, tall blue ageratum, snapdragons, delphiniums, coreopsis, nasturtiums, penstemon, roses, 'Endless Summer' hydrangea (true to its name) with the deepest blue flowers of the season, and Stella d'oro daylilies. The glads are about to burst into bloom again, and the sweet peas have never stopped. My late planting of crocosmia is in flower. The cannas I almost didn't plant because it was so late are in bloom.
I've decided next year I'm going to intentionally be late in planting many more flowers, and deadhead and cut them back after blooming more regularly. The fall garden is worth planning for now more than ever.
It's hard to beat snapdragons for their endless blooming and good nature. Mine self sow in many spots but I always plant more tall ones for cutting. They withstand frost and keep blooming longer than any other annual. Zinnias come close but they quit sooner because they dislike the cold. Last summer, in addition to sowing tall zinnias from seed, I bought a flat of 'Profusion Apricot' plants on sale in late June and tucked them into bare spots. They settled in quickly and are still full of flowers. 'Profusion White' spills nicely over the sides of a walkway, and when days get shorter in fall you can enjoy their glow in the early twilight.
Cosmos and lavatera bloom from early summer until snuffed out by the cold. Verbena bonariensis, another long-blooming annual, may not be truly hardy but I've had it reseed from year to year alongside my stone walkway where the soil temperature is warmed by the stone.
Flowering sages last the season, and some even come into peak bloom in fall. Non-hardy blue anise sage (Savia guaranitica) blooms off and on all summer in my planters, and 'Black and Blue' grows 3 to 4 feet tall and bushy with blue flowers and black calyxes -- a striking combination. But I've almost given up on getting flowers from my fall-blooming Mexican sage (Salvia mexicana). Maybe I'll bring those pots inside to coax them.
Most shrubs and perennials have a limited bloom time, but those that keep on giving include phlox, rudbeckia, butterfly bush, and the newer hydrangeas that bloom on old and new wood, such as 'Endless Summer'.
Delphiniums start and end the season, providing I cut them back nearly to the ground after the first flowering. Nepeta will reflower if sheared back, so will veronica. Cutting off the flowers of turtlehead (Chelone), balloon flower (Platycodon), and many of the campanulas will encourage more flowers in late summer and fall, at a time when the blues and purples make a nice foil for the customary oranges and yellows.
Fall asters and boltonia extend the colors of summer with their pink, blue, purple, or white daisy-like flowers. If you pinch them in early summer they will flower even later on more compact plants. Pinch some and not others to get an even longer season. Sedums, Russian sage, and ornamental grass plumes blend well in the garden and in a vase. The new Pinky Winky hydrangea has beautiful two-toned white and pink flowers from midsummer until frost on new wood, and it's very hardy -- to zone 3. I'm planting some this fall with anticipation.
Making Successive Plantings
Prolong the blooming of gladiolus, crocosmias, peacock orchids (Acidanthera bicolor), calla lilies, and other summer-flowering bulbs (or corms) that don't branch out with more buds by making several plantings of them. You can plant glads every two weeks until the end of June. All of them should be dug after a frost and stored for the winter. Crocosmias are hardy in our region, but I usually dig them up and save the corms for next year because I grow them in containers and don't have enough storage space.
The cool days of fall help prolong late bloomers, but soon enough the fresh-picked bouquet will be a memory. Take time to run out to the garden before dinner or early in the morning before work and snip whatever flowers, foliage, and seedpods you can find. You'll be surprised at the bounty.
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