I have several gardens around my home. They include several varieties
of periennials. My problem is that in the late summer and early fall
they get really ugly looking. The sedums start to to spread open, the
hostas look all brown, and everything else looks over-sized and
crowded for the rest of the garden. Does anyone have any suggestions
as to how I can make my garden look better this time of year?
In selecting plants, always ponder what they look like autumn & winter,
with an eye to increasing the population of plants that are not ugly out
of season. I don't know your zone, but here in Zone 8, a lot of stuff is
in full bloom until October, & even high-summer bloomers aren't too faded
in September. But my die-back perennials are pretty well mixed in with
stuff that is evergreen through most or all of winter, or fully evergreen,
or which has nice deciduous shape or fascinating bark when leafless.
I have clumps of evergreen irises that produce bright red berries in
autumn, evergreen lily grasses with glossy black berries, & kaffir lilies
that bloom autumn & winter. In selecting such grassy-leafed perennials it
is easy to end up exclusively with stuff that begins to disappear in
autumn, but by locating a few choices that are evergreen, there's never a
time it all looks dead or dying. Some of the penstemons are die-back early
in autumn, but others bloom through autumn & linger as evergreen leaves
through winter & only need trimming back near spring. Among a collection
of ferns, many fine ones will entirely die back, but including a few
choices like Japanese tassel fern or Deer fern that are evergreen will
keep it from being all starkness in winter.
This morning I went out & did a major trim of summer bloomers that are
still in flower but had a lot of scruffy bits on them, & now it all looks
tidy out there. But even when summer stuff is dying, much of what I've
selected has at least evergreen basal leaves. Even though the echinaceas
are dying back, there is growing with them wallflowers that are very
evergreen; their main season is when in full gaudy flower, but as
lingering globes of evergreen foliage they're great out of season.
"Prairie smoke" or old-man's-beard geum which has lingering basal leaves
that turn gold & red for autumn & last through much of winter. The prairie
smoke really isn't much for blooms or main-season interest though the
fuzzy-headed flowers are fun on close inspection, but when everything else
is dying back & its ferny basal leaves are still going strong, they earn
their space. A "Chinese Foxglove" is four or five feet high with leaves &
flowers for spring & summer, but even when it is time to trim them to the
ground, the basal leaves are 100% evergreen & look just dandy, with a
little autumn/winter bronziness & reds to the leaves. Several hardy
fuchsias are evergreen through most of winter & still in flower through
autumn; they only look scruffy & spent near the start of spring, so it
hardly matters that some of the surrounding cranesbills went all to pot by
November, the fuchsias will still be fine until March.
A whole slug of stuff if deadheaded when summer blooms have faded gets a
second burst of growth then reblooms for September/October, & won't really
be fading until closer to winter. If not deadheaded some of these would go
to seed then begin to die back sooner. Other stuff should not be
deadheaded at all, especially stuff has flowers dry out right on the shrub
or clump & last through autumn or even through winter -- masterwort,
oakleaf hydrangea, & meadowsweet all have lovely dried flowers.
The hardy cyclamen seasons have begun with C. hederifoliums sticking up
their pink flowers throughout the gardens, will be followed by the
patterned leaves in a couple more weeks. When the autumn flowers of C.
hederifolium are growing very few then vanishing, the leaves will remain
until spring, & during the winter, the flowers of C. coum will be most
active. I've also two winter-blooming varieties of crocus, & several
autumn-blooming crocuses, so around here crocuses are not just a spring
thang. I also have quite a lot of different species of Muscari, the
majority of which become rich grassy patches in Autumn & fill up areas
where herbaceous perennials vanished for winter. The Muscari sp. don't
bloom until late winter or early spring, but their grass presence lasts
from autumn to the end of spring. Among woody deciduous shrubs, I have
several that bloom in winter: winter honeysuckle, dawn verbanum,
witchhazel, corkscrew hazel, & birch. Much is chosen also for the
colorfulness of the leaves in autumn, & interesting barks. Some of my
shrub-sages continue to flower through winter, & their "die-back" time is
early spring rather than winter.
I also make an effort to include lots of stuff that blooms primarily
autumn & winter. It takes some planning because the majority of nurseries
tempt buyers with what looks best during the highest sales seasons, spring
& summer, & autumn & winter bloomers don't have the temptation value for
the spring sales nurseries seek foremost. If the perennials that die back
early in autumn & leave bleak black patches are only 20% to 60% of the
garden, instead of 80 or 100%, then there'll never be a time when it all
looks worn crappy. A mixed bed of die-back perennials does not look like
a bed of dead flowers if right behind it is an espaliered autumn/winter
blooming broadleaf evergreen Camelia sasanqua.
Plants are so variedthere's a lot to consider, but central to it all is
merely to THINK before each choice, "What wil it be like in autumn & in
winter?" If you can get something similar with a better autumn presence,
you may wish to forgo the one-season offering; or at least find it a
companion that holds the location out of season. If your perennial beds
also include some evergreens & woody shrubs, there'll always be SOMEthing
with pleasant form that will hold the eye longer than a patch of something
that has died back for the winter.
My autumn garden is extremely vibrant & hardly any less flowery & than
spring & summer. The winter garden is a lot quieter, but nevertheless
exciting, as even if fewer of the things that bloom in winter are
fabulously showy, they're all the more welcome due to the season, & some
few are showy indeed. But without giving conscious thought to that winter
garden, it is unlikely you'll end up with a pleasing autumn/winter garden
-paghat the ratgirl
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
<< I was at the local garden center yesterday and they had lots
of them in a lot of nice colors. I also noticed that they
priced them three times the price that they were in the spring.
Wellllllllll....look for some seeds and plant them if your zone allows. I had
some 3 year old seeds and I weeded out the sterile ones and gave the fertile
ones a jumpstart by keeping them overnight in water (the sterile/hollow ones
float) and I do believe they're coming up in the sunniest planters.
Leslie, 9B (New Orleans)
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.