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A New Garden Season

Certain colors are traditionally associated with each of the seasons. Even now, some people feel white is not a color one should wear in the winter time. In one advice column, I recall the writer told readers to put away the true whites after cold weather arrives.

Fall has always been thought of as the harvest season, and the colors we associate with autumn reflect that. As the nights gradually become cooler and longer, even the foliage of the zonal geraniums become even more vivid. When I see that happen, I begin to feel more energetic and feel like doing those routine garden chores I put off earlier.

With the cooler temperatures, fall is a perfect time to refurbish the garden. I like to remove overgrown annuals and replace them with cool-season selections.

For autumn magic in the garden, make full use of the cool-season flowers. Pansies seem to be the most widely used, but there are many other choices, including snapdragons, English daisies, pinks of all sorts, China asters, mums, flowering kales and cabbages. Snapdragons and pinks are even more appealing if you choose fragrant varieties. I especially like the Lampion snapdragon, as its trailing habit makes it ideal for hanging baskets. Annual poppies and ranunculus are two other cool season flowers that may be planted in the fall. However, they may not bloom until very early spring. The annual type primroses also do very well as a cool season flower, but I hesitate to recommend them because it is uncommon to see them for sale in the fall months. Though I have grown them from seed, this takes 6 months or longer.

Two other annuals that should be used more often are nemesia and wallflower. A fairly new type of wallflower, the Charity series, requires no chilling period, so you can plant it in the late summer and have it bloom by winter.

Nemesia is a wonderful flower for intermingling with flowering cabbages, kales, pansies, and the like. These free flowering plants are very easy to grow, but they dislike excessive moist or dry conditions. Never allow the soil to dry out completely.

For containers, an innovative approach is to interplant hardy foliage plants with flowering plants. As fall moves to winter, and later to spring, you can remove the seasonal flower and replace it with a fresh new one without redoing the entire container. Use any of the gray and blue-hued Proven Winners Fall Magic foliage plants as a backdrop in the pots. Then, add a few splashes of radiant blooming flowers. For a preview of the Fall Magic and other Proven Winner selections that should be available in garden centers, visit their website. All of these selections have been chosen for their long lasting beauty and cold weather performance.

Other suitable seasonal foliage plants would include red amaranth, Bright Lights Swiss chard, ornamental mustards like Red Giant and Early Mizuna, Tatsoi mustard-spinach, and kales like Red Bar, Lacinato, and Red Russian.

Concerning perennials, Thompson & Morgan’s ‘Autumn Lollipop’ Helenium should have a starring role in perennial borders. These picturesque blooms actually have a ring of ruffled rich yellow petals underneath the cone-shaped brown head. Use this plant to introduce the vibrant colors of fall into flowerbeds and borders. What is even more exciting is that this perennial blooms the first year from seed. Suitable for zones 4-8, this plant can be 2 to 3 feet in height.

Not to be outdone by flowers, the ornamental grasses put on a dramatic fall show. Heavy dews and frost cause the lovely seed heads to shimmer, and the rustle of the wind through these lovely plants also increases their appeal.

For more on these exquisite plants, I refer you to a marvelous title from Sunset Books. “Landscaping With Ornamental Grasses” is as well-written and beautifully illustrated as all the other Sunset titles. Learn how much these attractive plants have to offer in the fall and the other months as well. It provides designs and tips for every type of garden situation—from hot, dry areas to shady spots and winter gardens. This title takes the mystery out of growing ornamental grasses, and has invaluable advice on using them for borders, meadows, lawns, and even cutting gardens. There are very helpful plant lists of grasses for various purposes and growing conditions. At the end of the book, there is a handy chart with the different grasses and grasslike plants with details on their cultural needs.

Let autumn bring a new season of beauty to the garden by utilizing ornamental grasses and cool-season flowers.

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