In the Garden:
New England
September, 2001
Regional Report

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Goldenrod is a great fall perennial to grow in your landscape. Despite popular folklore, it's not responsible for fall allergies.

Alternative Fall Perennials

Fall is beautiful in Vermont. I love to plant perennial flowers that will complement the foliage when is starts turning later this month. However, instead of the traditional fall asters, sedums, and chrysanthemums, I like growing unusual fall flowers in the perennial garden. Some, such as goldenrod, are more familiar as wildflowers, while others are strong bloomers that are not widely grown.

Goldenrod

Beside the purple and white asters, the yellow flowers of goldenrod (Solidago) is probably most prevalent perennial flower color in the native landscape in fall. This pioneer plant moves into abandoned farm fields and meadows and depending on the species will flower from late July until frost. It has been falsely accused of being the cause of hay fever and other pollen allergies. It's actually the inconspicuous ragweed flowers that bloom at the same time that's the culprit.

The wild species is an aggressive plant growing to 5 feet tall and will quickly take over a perennial border. However, plant breeders have created or discovered more clump forming varieties such as the 3 to 4 foot tall Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks' and S. virgaurea 'Cloth of Gold' which only grows to 2 feet tall. These plants are carefree and make great cut flowers.

Solidaster

Here's a way to get the best of two fall perennials. Solidaster (Soliaster luteus) is a cross between aster and goldenrod. It produces a 2-foot tall plant that resembles the goldenrod, but has soft canary yellow, papery flowers and floppy stems that need staking. It's less aggressive than goldenrods, with a gentler color and form and is a great cut flower, often used in the florist trade.

Great Blue Lobelia

This stately plant grows quietly all summer until late August when it produces 3 foot tall blue flower spikes. Great blue lobelia (Lobelia syphilitica) is native to the eastern United States, grows best in part shade and moist soils, and produces blue flower spikes from late summer until frost. This clump will expand with time and seedlings can be dug and spread throughout the fall garden. It looks great growing with goldenrod or asters.

Growing Fall Flowers

Other than lobelia, give these uncommon fall perennial full sun and well-drained soil for best growth. Divide them every 3 to 4 years and amend the soil with compost annually. Plant them with early and mid summer flowers such as iris, bee balm, and coneflowers to continue the color show in your perennial bed into fall. With the fall leaves turning and these perennials blooming, you'll think it's mid summer in the flower garden again.



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