Flowers that hold onto summer
Fall is a good time to plant perennials
By: Susan Jones
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 07, 2013 06:00 am
There’s no denying the “wow” factor of the fall-blooming sunflowers in Gabrielle Bosse’s front yard. As you drive down Salisbury Avenue, you cannot help but notice the burst of yellow from her sunflowers that are so tall, they easily grow over the fence arbour. When Bosse stands beside them, the sunflowers tower over her.
“They start blooming at the end of July and the flowers last until freeze-up,” said Bosse, whose perennial sunflower may be found in garden centres under the name sunflower heliopsis or false sunflower.
“I don’t fertilize the plants or baby them in any way. The only thing is, they are so tall, they flop over, so I have to tie them up and support them,” she said.
Fall is a good time to plant perennials. As neighbours start to clean up their yards, they often have irises, day lilies or, like Bosse, perennial sunflowers to share. Many garden centres also offer perennials at this time of year at reduced prices.
“You can plant most perennials, even roses, right up to the end of September,” said Stephen Raven, of Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens.
Raven’s favourites include a fall-blooming aster, which comes in shades of purple, pink and white and often have interesting purple-green foliage. The flat blossoms will remain until the temperature drops below five degrees Celsius. The plants require no over-wintering care, but they will poke their green heads up in the spring and slowly grow all summer before they start blooming again in late August.
Joe Pye flowers are another fall perennial that tops most gardeners’ favourites list. The legend that accompanies these five-foot-tall fuzzy purplish blooms is that they are named after an American aboriginal Jopi, who, in the 1800s, used the plants to cure people suffering from typhus.
“Joe Pye starts to bloom in late August and the blooms last at least three weeks. They grow into a big clump that’s very showy,” Raven said.
The cottage garden at the St. Albert Botanic Park is still vibrant with late-summer perennial flowers. The beauty of the park is that the volunteers have labelled most of the plants so it’s easy to see which perennials you like best, how tall they grow and what other plants look nice beside them.
Close to the park’s rose garden, in the new hydrangea bed, look for Little Lamb (Hydrangea paniculata) with blossom clusters that must be at least 30 centimetres long.
“In general, all hydrangeas tend to be late blooming. We have one that is called Quick Fire, which blooms early in the summer and is white at first, then becomes pink and now is burnt orange colour,” said park volunteer Margot McCune.
McCune’s favourite is another perennial that has many common names, such as snakeroot and bugbane. One variety growing in the park is Hillside Black Beauty. This plant is growing next to the chain-link fence. Its foliage is so dark a purple, it’s almost black and it has fragrant, feathery-looking spikes of creamy-white flowers.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to cut back your perennials, because many have unusual shapes or coloured branches that provide interesting colour in the winter garden too.
For beauty that lasts into the winter, try planting Rosa rugosa, a four- to five-foot tall shrub rose that produces red, walnut-sized hips that stand out against the deepest snows. And plant stonecrop, especially taller varieties that will look pretty in the fall and on into winter.
“Plants such as Elsie’s Gold stonecrop starts blooming now, and it’s pretty because of autumn-coloured leaves, but it also has big wide flowerheads that bloom until frost. If you leave them, and don’t cut them down, they dry and look very attractive in the winter. You don’t have to deadhead everything,” Raven said.