August 25, 2013

Maine Gardener: Late color to make you fall for autumn

By TOM ATWELL

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Fall-blooming sedum have been growing in popularity over the past 10 to 15 years. They will come into bloom in late August, and stand tall in the garden at about 1 to 2 feet tall all through the winter. Autumn Joy with purple flowers is probably the most popular, but others have some brighter or more unusual colors, including Black Jack, Brilliant and Matrona. Check out what your nursery has and go with what you like.

Montauk daisy is another good-looking late bloomer. It looks a lot like the Shasta daisy, but blooms in late August and will last throughout the fall and doesn't require as much dead-heading as Shastas.

Nancy and I have been buying one perennial hibiscus a year for the past few years, and we love their huge flowers very late in the year. It is one plant that strangers walking by will comment on, an absolutely striking, tropical-looking plant. If you do plant a perennial hibiscus, keep in mind that, since it blooms late, it also appears very late in spring. Mark the plant's spot in your garden, and wait for it to pop up.

You can't talk about late-blooming plants without mentioning chrysanthemums and asters. They both are hardy perennials, but many people treat them like annuals, popping them in the garden in September and letting them die, because they planted them too late in the season and didn't water them as they should.

Asters are natives, and can grow from a foot to 5 feet tall. They have purple, pink and sometimes white flowers. One of the best is Alma Plotschke, which has magenta flowers, but there are many others.

Chrysanthemums come in a variety of colors: gold, yellow and a good pink one called Clara Curtis. If you have some that have lived from previous years, you probably should have cut them back in June or early July so they branch out and don't get so tall that they flop over in the wet and windy fall weather.

If you're thinking of buying potted chrysanthemums from your garden center, remember to keep them watered and deadheaded until the end of the season.  The earlier you put them into your garden and the more attention you give them, the more likely they are to come back next spring.

All of these plants will extend the season. The memories of these blossoms might be just enough to get you through the cold winter, but it is too early to start thinking about that.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

tomatwell@me.com

 

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