Early autumn flowers!
From the Davis Enterprise, September 27, 2007
Warm days, cool nights,
and dry weather characterize the early fall here. Great gardening weather, a
perfect time to re-seed your lawn, plant landscape shrubs and trees, divide
perennials. But don't forget flowers at this time of year.
garden centers are already carrying the winter annuals, many of them in full
bloom: pansies and violas, snapdragons, stock, and calendulas in six-packs and
four-inch pots. These will give quick color, but may go out of bloom if there
is another spell of hot weather. Don't be discouraged. Trim off the spent
blossoms and seed heads, and new flower buds will emerge almost immediately.
All of the afore-mentioned flowers will bloom all winter and well into next
spring. One of my favorites is
Chrysanthemum paludosum. This relative of the more familiar Mums has an annual
white flower that resembles a miniature Shasta daisy, blooming from October
year after year. Many summer bloomers produce another crop of blossoms in fall;
others are autumn specialists.
Yarrow. Many new colors, mostly warm pinks, reds, yellow. All yarrows draw beneficial
insects and spread steadily but not rampantly. Will take light shade. These
have been blooming all summer, but usually put on a late summer surge of
flowers which age gracefully and which also dry nicely.
Asters resemble Chrysanthemums, but bloom earlier: mid-summer to early fall. They are
bright little daisies, available in lavender, purple, pink, red, and white. All
attract butterflies. New varieties have compact growth habit. One of my
favorite garden plants in recent years is the old-fashioned fence aster, a big
sprawling lavender-flowered daisy which sprawls out over nearby shrubs and
trees in September and October.
This is the fall perennial that everyone knows. The big-flowered types that you see
in stores are not great garden plants. They require careful staking, pinching,
and trimming to get large flowers, and the plants flop all over the place. But
there are many miniature, smaller-flowered varieties whose compact growth
habits make them excellent garden plants. King's Mums in Clements is the
authority on Mum varieties and cultivation: www.kingsmums.com. Their nursery, east of Lodi, is open to
the public every day October 1 – Nov. 30th, when the mums are
at their peak of bloom.
Update from their website: "In the Fall of 2008 Kim and Ray Gray purchased the business from Ted and Lanna King and in January of 2009 moved the operation to their small farm in Oregon City, Oregon."
Sedums are succulent plants, usually grown for the foliage. But S. spectabile has
spectacular early fall flower clusters in shades of pink and red, which age to
a unique brownish-red color. This is a tough plant for full sun or light shade.
Fall in the Sacramento
Valley is a wonderful season for our roses. On your traditional types such as
Hybrid Teas (long-stem cutting roses), trim off the hips (seed pods) that may
have formed this summer. Shape the bushes a bit with light pruning. Remove any
suckers that have sprouted – they are obvious shoots, much more vigorous
and vine-like than the main plant. Wash the summer dust and spider mites off
the foliage with a strong blast of water. Give each plant some fertilizer and a
good soaking. You can expect a nice crop of flowers by Hallowe'en, with
blossoms continuing into November.
More informal roses such as the shrub and landscape types may have set a large crop of hips, and these
color nicely as the nights get cooler. Rose hips can be used for tea (simply
remove the seeds, then simmer 4 – 6 hips in 2 cups of water for about 30
minutes, strain and serve) or for winter wreaths and decorations.
Salvia: the sages are the royalty of the autumn border.
With over a hundred species and varieties of Salvia available from growers, we have types
that bloom nearly any time of year. But summer and fall are when Salvias really
fill the border. Vivid purples, reds, pinks, some startlingly bright. Salvia flowers attract hummingbirds. Here is just a sampling of some notable species and hybrids.
The short, annual red-flowered S. splendens blooms until frost. S. farinacea,
the Texas violet, has lovely light blue flower spikes. It doesn't usually
overwinter here, so we treat it as an annual. Though both are considered
'summer annuals', their fall bloom is outstanding.
Herbaceous (soft) forms that are especially showy include
Pineapple sage, named for the scent of the foliage. Blooms into winter. Expect some cold damage, but it usually resprouts in spring.
Anise-scented sage. Big sprawly thing with spectacular flowers. Spreads. Hack it to the ground each winter.
S. 'Indigo Spires'
Another sprawly plant with vivid violet-blue flower spikes which are long enough to cut for flower arrangements.
One of the showiest garden Salvias, with a low growth habit and copious blooms. 'East Friesland' is one of the best varieties: non-stop spikes of purple
flowers from May through October.
sage. One of my favorites for the sky-blue flowers. As the name implies, this
will grow in soggy soil. In the 'normal' border it makes a great indicator
plant: droops when the border needs water, then perks back up instantly. Be
forewarned: spreads aggressively. Prune with a machete.
Forms that have showy summer and fall flowers include:
with numerous varieties and hybrids.Called Autumn sage,
although they will bloom nearly any month of the year here. Steady, reliable,
long-lived shrubs with flowers that are small but abundant and available in
nearly every shade of red, purple, pink, and even white. S. microphyllais basically the same, and S. x jamensisis the name given to hybrids between the two species.
Mexican sage. Big, upright to about 4' here, this may fall over as it blooms. So plant it behind other, stouter Salvias or lower shrubs. Spectacular velvety royal purple flowers continue until frost. One of my favorites.
several attractive native and culinary Salvias as well.
These California natives are great garden plants, especially in low-water landscapes. But most
bloom in spring or early summer, finishing their cycle before our summer heat
and drought puts them into a semi-dormant state. Attractive foliage and growth
habit makes them suitable background plants for the fall-blooming species.
sage, used for burning rituals. Intensely scented foliage is silvery-gray,
almost white. Great in a moonlight garden.
blue sage. A chaparral shrub from Southern California. There are some named
hybrids with uniformly compact growth habit, showier flowers than the species.
sage. The giant arrow-shaped leaves are attractive enough in their own right.
The 3' flower spikes are stunning and, as Sunset says, 'a magnet for
hummingbirds.' This spring bloomer may give a repeat fall bloom.
Garden sage. This
is the sage we use in cooking, but it is also an attractive shrub in the
landscape or border. The standard form has purplish-grey leaves, but there are
forms with golden and pink variegation as well. Tolerant of heat, drought,
light shade, it grows to about 3' x 3' or more. Combine with lavender and
rosemary as the year-'round backbone of your herb garden.
Brightening the autumn
flower garden can seem like a challenge, as we continue to swing back and forth
between cool weather and hot spells. Don't worry about short intervals of hot
weather. Water new plants thoroughly when you install them, then check every
other day. As the days shorten and nights cool, new transplants probably need
water every 3 – 4 days.
© 2008 Don Shor, Redwood Barn Nursery, Inc., 1607 Fifth Street, Davis, Ca 95616
Feel free to copy and distribute this article with attribution to this author.
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