In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
August, 2014
Regional Report

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Commonly called Japanese anemones, these fall bloomers add a graceful note to the autumn garden.

Late Season Color in the Flower Garden

To keep your flower garden a constantly changing palette of color, plan ahead for blooms in all seasons. For continuous color, try to give spring-, summer-, and fall-blooming plants each about one-third of the total space, which will provide colorful beds from spring until the first hard frost. There are a number of lovely choices for late season color that will keep your garden looking good as the weather cools and the days shorten.

For maximum visual impact, plant in drifts. A flowing mass of yarrow, for example, provides a wash of eye-catching yellow, while a single plant or two can look lost or weedy. Scattered drifts can make a garden look spotty; try placing three or four perennials that flower at the same time in neighboring drifts to create small garden vignettes and guide the eye to the next drift of color.

Favorite Autumn Flowers
A late-season garden is incomplete without fall-blooming anemones (these include cultivars and subspecies of Anemone x hybrida, A. hupehensis, A.vitifolia, and A. tomentosa). These wonderful, 2- to 3-foot-tall plants seem to explode into bloom in the fall with single or double flowers in shades of rose, pink, salmon, or white. Held aloft on fragile-looking stems, the flowers and shiny buds add a certain gracefulness at this time of year. Anemones grow best in rich, organic soil in part afternoon shade. 'Honorine Jobert' is the best white anemone, and 'September Charm', with its silvery pink flowers, is a late-season knockout.

Fall-blooming asters are such popular perennials that new cultivars are constantly being introduced. It's easy to see why. Asters produce huge numbers of 2-inch-wide, daisy-like flowers in colors from pink to purple to white on plants that range in size from low-growing edging plants to towering beauties for the back of the border. Asters thrive in average garden soil in full sun.

By the way, many asters are no longer asters, at least from a botanical standpoint. Those pesky taxonomists have been at work changing names again, and now, botanically speaking, the genus Aster is correct only for Old World species. So tall New England asters have become Symphyotrichum novae-angliae and New York asters, also called Michaelmas daisies, are S. novi-belgii. Other new genus names you might see include Eurybia and Oclemena. Plant catalogs and references may be updated or use the older, more familiar names.

Lower-growing asters are easy because they don't require pinching or staking the way most of the tall asters do. The New England aster 'Purple Dome' is a great choice. It grows 18 inches tall and wide, with dramatic, deep violet-purple flowers. Combine it with yarrow and dwarf fountain grass (Penniseum alopecuroides 'Hameln') for a beautiful late-fall picture.

Toad-lilies (Tricyrtis hirta) fall into the "interesting and unusual" category. Toad-lilies have arching, 2- to 3-foot stems and are just ordinary-looking, nondescript plants until, in September, rows of orchid-like white flowers open where the pointed leaves are attached to the stems. If you look closely, you'll see that the blooms are speckled with dark purple. Toad-lilies thrive in part shade and moist soil.

Colorful Foliage Fools the Eye
Fall-flowering perennials are just part of the secret to having attractive beds and borders. You can fool the eye into seeing a colorful garden even when little is in bloom if you include plants with colorful foliage such as Heuchera 'Palace Purple', which has red-purple, maple-like leaves; variegated solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum'), with leaves that turn a marvelous shade of gold with creamy white edges; silver-leaved plants, such as Artemisia 'Powis Castle', and Bergenia cordifolia, with bronze-purple autumn foliage.

Shop and plant now if you want your perennial beds to look spectacular this fall. If you wait until the end of the summer when the beds look bedraggled, you'll probably end up dashing out to the nursery in a desperate search for color. Most nurseries stock very little variety at the end of the season, and you may find only main-stay chrysanthemums. How ordinary!


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