In the Garden:
'Country Girl' is a single flowered chrysanthemum that is well suited to a southern cottage garden or formal perennial border.
The Fall Flower Show
The long summer is nearing an end. Cooler and shorter days and refreshing rainfall is a signal fall flowering plants that it's time to bloom. While many gardeners think of spring and early summer as the perennial season, there are many fall flowering plants that shine during our "second growing season", late summer and fall.
Chrysanthemums are perhaps the best known fall flowering perennial. With a little care and pinching through the summer they set out mounds of blooms starting now. I am especially fond of the single flower types such as 'Country Girl'. Plus they are dependably winter hardy in our region.
The intensely fragrant blooms of white butterfly ginger (Hedychium) appear in late summer and fall. One year when one of our children was born I clipped some blooms for a vase in our hospital room. For several days nurses wandered in from the hallway in search of the source of the wonderful fragrance. These plants grow best in a bright shade location and are dependably hardy in much of the Lower South if mulched heavily and planted in a semi-protected spot.
Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) is a unique Southwestern native that thrives throughout the Lower South if provided with good sunlight and adequate drainage. Although I grow Mexican sage for its late season burst of violet and white flower spikes, its lance-shaped, silvery leaves and mounding habit provide an attractive addition to the landscape all through the growing season.
Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida) offers double benefits. It's a great choice for the herb garden, producing licorice-scented foliage prized by southern gardeners as a substitute for tarragon. And with the arrival of shorter days, it produces a profusion of small yellow blooms that last until first frost.
Fall Flowering Bulbs
Flowering bulbs aren't just limited to spring and summer. I like the late summer performance of my Lycoris bulbs. This old fashioned favorite is known as a Guernsey Lily (Lycoris radiata 'Guernsey'). Its spidery, red blooms appear out of the soil in late summer or early fall growing through turf or groundcover where they've been dormant all summer. This plant's cousins include the white fall spider lily (L. x albiflora) and the yellow blooming St. Augustine lily (L. africanus).
Lighting for Best Blooms
Many of the fall bloomers respond to shortening daylengths to start blooming. A streetlight or home security light can fool some plants into thinking the short days of fall have not yet arrived. One year our Mexican mint marigold, was planted beneath a light and it failed to bloom before the first frost. Remember not to locate these plants near night lighting.
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