By the time late summer arrives our gardens are often looking a little tired. Typically, the annuals are ragged and worn out and the colourful, early summer perennials are but a distant memory. What we need now is a good jolt of colour. The problem is not that there is a shortage of fall blooming perennials offered at the garden centres, it’s just that in May and June when all fall bloomers can offer is greenery, we pass them by for their earlier summer cousins that are blooming in full colour. It’s not too late to get started for next year’s blast of late summer colour. Many late bloomers are in your garden centres now and likely in bloom, too. Look for these old favourites and other newer introductions:
Stokesia llaevis ‘Peachie’s Pick’
- A dwarf type of bright blue aster (Peachie refers to the plantswoman who discovered it). It blooms in August (a little later than other varieties) on sturdy upright 45-cm (18-inch) stems.
- Now called dendranthemum, this old favourite is available in a variety of colours and flower forms that bloom from early September to late October.
- Mums don’t always survive the winter so use winter protection – mulch them with straw or evergreen boughs.
Echinacea purpurea (Coneflower)
- Long lived and easy to grow, coneflower attracts butterflies, and puts on a beautiful show in the late summer garden.
- Look for ‘Primadonna Deep Rose’ with its large lavender-rose flowers.
- ‘White Swan’ is very elegant, reliable white variety with an orange-green cone.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
- Autumn Joy is a fall favourite that has broccoli-shaped flower heads forming in late July. Then in August they turn pink and later to a rusty red.
Helenium ‘Autumnale’ (Sneezeweed)
- These single daisy-like flowers come in brown, orange, red and yellow.
- They are great as cut flowers and attract butterflies, too. Give them full sun and moist to wet soil.
Cimicifuga ‘White Pearl’
- This erect, clump-forming cultivar has green leaves and dark stems. It is noted for its large, arching, bottlebrush-like flower spikes of pure white flowers.
- The fern-like foliage is lovely throughout the growing season.
- ‘White Pearl’ blooms later than other species of Cimicifuga.
Boltonia asteroides ‘Snowbank’
- Blooming from August to October, this large, dramatic, eye-catching plant has clouds of small white daisies.
- It makes an excellent companion for tall ornamental grasses like a Miscanthus ‘Karl Foerster.’
Eualalia Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)
- Perennial grasses are at their best in the fall with many growing 1.5 metres (5 feet) or more depending on the variety.
- The plumes resemble corn tassels but are denser and arch to one side. First they are a pink to coppery shade maturing to white or silver.
- Left uncut they make a dramatic statement in the winter landscape, too.
Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’
- This is one of the more vigorous anemones and grows up to 1 metre (3 feet) high forming attractive clumps.
- Commonly called windflower, Robustissima has very light pink flowers with foliage that resembles grape leaves.
- No fall garden should be without the metre-high (3-foot) variety known for its dramatic chocolate-tinted foliage and purple stems.
- The flowers start to appear in late summer to early fall.
- Note that the chocolate-purple foliage colour is reduced in intense sun and heat.