Is your garden that looked so fresh and beautiful this spring now looking like the dead? Join the club! Unfortunately many of our gardens tend to peak in late spring, as this is the time that many of our favorites typically bloom, leaving us flowerless and frustrated come August into fall. Furthering the damage, our hot and unforgiving Colorado sun tends to scorch whatever foliage may remain from our spring bloomers, making our gardens look that much more ravaged come summer’s end.
The good news is that there are many stunning and drought resistant bloomers not reaching their peak until end of summer/fall. These plants can be dotted into your current landscape adding life and color while screening out unsightly, scorched spring foliage.
One of my favorite late bloomers is Hummingbird Mint or Hyssop (Agastache- pronounced a- gas- ta-key ). This perennial is enjoyed for it’s spicy fragrance, unique coral or pink colored flowers and finely textured foliage. It is also a superb hummingbird plant attracting them for several months with its nectar. Reaching 3′ X 2′ wide, it is recommended for planting with other long bloomers such as Chrysanthemum and Frikart’s Aster.
Mums (Chrysanthemum sp.) , although common, remains a beautiful and reliable staple for any Autumn garden. At 2’X’2′ wide, this perennial with comes in an array of fall colors from ranging from deep red to rusty orange to creamy white. They are compact so generally don’t need a ton of space. For a more prolific bloom and compact form, prune foliage in June back to 6″ high. The new growth will double the amount of flowers and give great form.
Fall Asters are one of the most festive bloomers around. Asters range in color from crimson red to blue to bright lilac, depending on the variety. One of my favorite varieties is Frikart’s Aster ( Aster frikartii ‘Monch’) which bears large, daisy-like lavender/blue flowers with bright yellow centers perched on stiff stalks approximately 2-3′ X 2′ wide. These flowers are also great for cutting.
One truly choice and unique fall bloomer is the Japanese anemone ( Anemone x hybrida) . One variety, ‘Honorine Jobert’ bears crystalline white petals surrounding yellow stamens on tall wiry stems 3-4′ high. Japanese anemones are generally slow to establish in the garden, but don’t give up, the end result is well worth a little patience. They will grow best in well-drained soil generously amended with organic matter. Partial shade is preferred, and they look great paired with foliage plants such as Coral Bells or Hostas.
And let’s not forget the most fall-friendly ground cover around, Hardy Plumbago ( Ceratostigma plumbagnoides) . This outstanding groundcover bears numerous deep blue flowers, creating large drifts of fall color in the garden. As the flowering finishes, the leaves begin a month-long change to a vivid mahogany red color. Plumbago is extremely adaptable, thriving in a wide range of soil types and growing equally well in sun or shade.
So hopefully you now see that a beautiful fall garden is within the realm of possibility. All it takes is a little planning and digging in the dirt. Remember to plant in odd-numbered groupings, staggering plant placement for the most impactful and natural look. And if cultivating a garden that blooms from early spring to late fall still feels like a daunting task, remember that there are always professionals out there to help you!
Laura Robinson is an award-winning, Stapleton based, Landscape Designer and owner of Sundial Designs.