As we move into the fall season and our summer bloomers start to fade, it is encouraging to know that there are still quite a few choices for late color in our gardens. The classic fall blooming perennials are of course mums and asters, which sadly seem to have been relegated to the status of disposability. You will find most mums in the seasonal color department of the garden center rather than on the perennial benches. They are festive and, when combined with a pumpkin and some corn stalks, make for an attractive seasonal display. If you decide to plant them after they have faded, be sure to loosen up the roots and water them in well. Don’t cut them back until spring (after you see signs of new growth) and plan on pinching them back once or twice before July or they will be 3 feet tall! The same is true for asters, although they seem to be a bit more reliable in the garden.
Beyond mums and asters you will find other bloomers, like sedum 'Autumn Joy’, Kaffir lilies, toad lilies, hardy cyclamen, and even some repeat blooming shrubs like spiraea and hydrangeas. But the one plant in my garden that speaks fall to me is the Japanese Anemone. It is easy to grow and a reliable bloomer that is quite happy in partial shade or even full sun, provided you don’t let it dry out. The plant itself will reach 3 feet tall by September and will bloom for almost 2 months, starting as early as mid-August. Japanese anemones will spread slowly throughout the garden and can colonize an area if left unchecked. I routinely pull out any unwanted runners so they don’t overtake the rest of my plants. (I have a rule that no plant can have more than its allotted space so that I can enjoy the maximum amount of variety in my yard.) Don’t be afraid to pull out what you don’t want.
There are many varieties of Japanese Anemones on the market and most of them are either white or shades of pink. The one in my garden that has brought me years of enjoyment is a white one called ‘Honorine Jobert’. It has single white flowers with yellow centers and brightens up my shady border quite nicely. Here a few other flavors to try…
Wild Swan — This one came out a few years back and is white like ‘Honorine’ but has the added attraction of blue-violet undersides of the petals - which are simply stunning in my humble opinion.
Pink Kiss — A floriferous dwarf Anemone growing only about 10 inches tall that is a great choice for pots, small gardens, or the front of the border. Its flower buds are a deep maroon and open to a perfect single pink flower fading to a softer pink with age.
Lucky Charm — The leaves on this selection start off deep purple and change to dark green with the undersides a lighter violet. Flowers are deep rich pink with very dark purple, almost black stems. It grows to a typical 2 to 3 feet tall.
All of these selections will be quite happy in a shady border, such as on the north side of the house or in a woodland setting where they get dappled shade. Like I said above, you can even plant them in full sun as long as the soil is rich, full of organic matter, and never dries out.
Have some fun this fall with these tried and true late summer bloomers. You’ll be rewarded for years to come!