Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
September, 2010
Regional Report

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Helenium (Sneezeweed) paired with ornamental grass is one of my favorite displays for early autumn.

Keep the Autumn Garden Alive with Color

Autumn is just around the corner. My garden is starting to show some spectacular colors with asters blooming, hardy chrysanthemums, sneezeweed and fall anemones. Paired with the ornamental grasses that sway in the wind, the garden still has plenty of life for many more weeks of viewing pleasure. This is truly one of my favorite times of year.

if you're one of those gardeners that think gardens wind down as fall approaches, think again. If you choose the right kinds of plants that reach their peak in late summer and autumn, you can have spectacular bursts of color before the garden is hit by a hard frost. Fall is one of the most pleasant times to work in the garden.

There are plenty of plants to provide late-season color. Tree foliage will be changing to shades of yellow, gold, red and rust. Now is a good time to add hardy mums, one of the easiest to find at local gardening outlets. But mums aren't the only fall-blooming perennials you have to choose from. Some of my favorites are the bright-yellow goldenrods, Japanese anemones, sneezeweeds and asters. Pair any of these with ornamental grasses and you will create a vivid display that will please the eye.

With some careful thought on selecting plants, you can extend the garden season even after the frost has knocked out most flowers. Think about colorful fruits and interesting seed heads. These fruits and seeds will also invite winged visitors that add their own special flair to the garden.

Evergreens are another component of the autumn garden. They make handsome accents and backgrounds for autumn flowers, foliage and ornamental grasses. Once the flowers, foliage and grasses are gone, evergreens will carry the garden through the winter season.

Some other tips for fabulous fall color in the garden include planting more annuals. Marigolds are at the top of my list for continual show. They just seem to intensify in color and vigor as fall approaches. Be sure to deadhead the spent flowers to encourage more buds and blooms. The extra effort is worth it! Zinnias, blanket flowers, and morning glories combine well with the perennial flowers.

Not all annuals will tolerate the cooler weather of autumn, so be prepared to have a frost blanket to cover the more tender types. Even if the annuals begin to wane, you can yank then out and replace the empty spots with ornamental kales, pansies and violas. These cool weather-tolerant plants will add some striking colors and interest even as the temperatures drop.

Butterflies are a must in my garden and they're on their final feeding frenzy in late summer and early autumn. Be sure to have nectar plants in your design to draw them in. Late-blooming sedums, fuchsias, butterfly bushes, zinnias, and black-eyed Susan are just a few to include.

Late-summer and early fall doesn't have to be a time when the garden winds down. Get out there and explore the many ways to add late-season color and interest for a fabulous finale.

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