It’s Joseph, your GPOD editor, here. In my northern Indiana garden the dahlias are in peak bloom, and there is a little chill in the air in the mornings. So I thought today I’d share some of my favorite plants for this time of the year.
Gotta start out with Salvia azurea (Zones 4–9). This is a late-blooming sage, native mostly to the middle section of North America, that fills the end of the season with clouds of incredible true-blue flowers. It is a great contrast to all the yellows and oranges that dominate the fall. I adore this plant, but it does have a weakness: Especially in rich, moist soil it can grow too tall and flop over. But if you cut it back early in the summer, it will grow shorter and denser and give you an incredible floral display.
My other fall essential is ivy-leaved cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium, Zones 4–10). Dormant all summer, this bulb bursts into bloom in the fall, then puts up a beautiful set of leaves that last all winter into spring. It’s happiest under deciduous trees.
Bulbs aren’t just for spring. Crocus speciosus (Zones 4–9) is my favorite of the true fall crocuses. (It’s not to be confused with colchicum, which is sometimes called autumn crocus but is a very different plant.) How perfect are those flowers?
Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana, Zones 6–9) is a shrub native to southeastern North America that doesn’t look like much most of the year. The small flowers are pretty but not particularly showy, and the leaves are green and healthy but not amazing. And then in late summer the clusters of berries along each steam change into an absolutely glowing shade of purple. Hard to beat, it’s food for native birds too.
Witch hazels are best known in gardens for the Asian species and hybrids that bloom in late winter/early spring, but the North American native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana, Zones 3–9) blooms in the fall. Its branches are decorated with delicate gold spiders just as or just after the leaves drop.
Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana, Zones 3–9) is another great North American native perennial that starts blooming in June, but I always notice and photograph it in September when it is STILL blooming despite a lot of the summer perennials starting to fade. It will spread aggressively, so for small gardens look for nonspreading forms like the cultivar ‘Miss Manners’.
In the shade, toad lilies (Tricyrtis hirta, Zones 4–8) give wonderful late summer and fall blooms that are speckled with purple. I love these plants, though I struggle to grow them in my current garden because the rabbits adore them as well.
If you have fall favorites I didn’t mention, please send them into the GPOD! I’d love to share them.
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