Legends of the Fall
It’s not too late to enjoy a season full of color in your garden.
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Temperatures are finally starting to chill, but savvy gardeners aren’t packing away the spade and clippers just yet. Gardens can stay vibrant far into fall, and the cooler season is an excellent time to grow leafy greens and prepare for next spring.
Add Fall Foliage
Start with chrysanthemums, autumn’s signature flower. Unless you’re holding a party or special event, purchase plants with buds rather than full blooms to prolong your enjoyment.
Most varieties at garden centers may bloom next year, if the winter is mild and you give a little care. “Stick it in the ground and you’re good to go,” says Robert Scanzaroli, a senior gardener at Longwood Gardens. Add some mulch to dress them for winter. Next spring and early summer, pinch back the growth until July 4, after which buds will start to form.
More tender mum varieties, such as the ones on display in Longwood’s conservatory, should be treated as annuals. Once they’ve faded, that’s that.
Asters, like most mums, have a chance of coming back in spring. Again, pinch them back to avoid leggy plants that bow toward the ground come autumn.
Though asters and mums are among the most popular fall flowers, pansies in recent years have come on strong. The perky flowers’ striking hues accent the oranges, browns, reds and yellows typically associated with fall, Scanzaroli says. And if Delaware experiences a moderate winter, the pansies might pop up in spring, says Lorene Athey, a landscape architect and owner of Guided Path Planning & Garden Design in Newark.
Fireworks, a cultivar of goldenrod, is aptly named. “It’s basically a fireworks display when it opens up,” Scanzaroli says. “It’s an amazing plant.” If you can’t find any at this time of year, snatch some up next spring in anticipation of fall.
Ornamental grasses come into their prime in fall. Shenandoah, for instance, turns a wonderful wine color in September. As with goldenrod, you may need to purchase grasses earlier in the season to plan for fall. If you find some on sale this year, it’s a good time to plant and let them develop for display next year.
For a lively accent, consider Chinese five-color peppers, which turn from purple, cream and yellow to red come autumn. Warning: These are screaming hot peppers. Be careful if you have children.
Don’t forget ornamental kale and cabbages—unless you live in a deer-infested area. The frilly plants are a deer’s version of fast food. Again, treat these plants like annuals. Yank them out when the edges get brown and raggedy.
Lettuces, meanwhile, can do double duty. Multicolored versions add brilliance to a fall garden, and they’re edible. “There are so many different colors of lettuce now,” says Scanzaroli, who has been planting vegetables as ornamentals in Longwood’s Idea Garden for years.
Page 2: Continue the Harvest