Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
August, 2011
Regional Report

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Michaelmas daisy (Aster novi-belgii) comes into its glory in late August and blooms profusely until early November.

Always Planning Ahead

It seems to me that summer took an awfully long time to arrive this year. Now that it is finally sunny and warm, I'm thoroughly enjoying the moment. While it's tempting to sit back and relax, my garden is a constantly changing palette of color so I need to start planning the next phase of the gardening season -- spectacular autumn color.

Favorite Fall Flowers
Fall-blooming asters are on my list of must-haves. They're such popular perennials that new cultivars are constantly being introduced. Asters thrive in average garden soil and produce huge numbers of 2-inch-wide, daisy-like flowers in colors ranging from pink to purple to white. Plants vary in size from low-growing edging plants to towering beauties for the back of the border.

I like the shorter growing asters best because they don't require pinching or staking the way most of the tall asters do. My all-time favorite is A. novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'. It grows 18 inches tall and wide, with dramatic, deep violet-purple flowers. It makes a perfect companion to yarrow and dwarf fountain grass (Penniseum alopecuroides 'Hameln') for a beautiful late-fall picture.

Toad lily (Tricyrtis formosana) is an interesting fall bloomer. This plant produces clusters of unique, orchid-like flowers covered with purple speckles. It blooms from late September until frost and thrives in partial shade and moist soils.

Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is another hardy and very reliable fall bloomer. Goldenrod does well in partial shade to full sun, in dry to moist soils. In the fall the plants are covered with golden-yellow flowers which turn fluffy white after a frost. The flowers can be used in dried arrangements.

If you have ample room in your garden, try Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum). It is an outstanding perennial growing 4-6 feet high. In the late-summer it produces an amazing number of dusky-purple flowers which go through several color changes as the season progresses. Butterflies can't resist the flowers. Joe-Pye weed likes moist soil but will do fine in drier gardens.

Finally, I don't think a fall garden is complete without anemones. These wonderful plants seem to explode into bloom in the fall with single or double flowers in shades of rose, pink, salmon, or white. The flowers and shiny buds, held aloft on fragile-looking stems, add a certain gracefulness to the garden at this time of year. Anemones grow best in rich, organic soil in part afternoon shade. 'Honorine Jobert' is my favorite white anemone, and 'September Charm', with its silvery pink flowers, is a late-season knockout.

Use Colorful Foliage
Fall-blooming perennials are just part of the secret to having attractive beds and borders. You can still have a colorful garden when there's not much in bloom if you include plants with colorful foliage. Among my favorites are Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia '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 its bronze-purple autumn foliage.

Now is the time to shop for your new plants. If you wait until the end of the summer, you may not be able to find a good variety of healthy plants for transplanting because most nurseries have very little stock at the end of the season. If you don't shop early you may only be able to find chrysanthemums and pansies for your fall garden. How ordinary!

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