Your September Garden in Living Color- Part 1

Your September Garden in Living Color- Part 1

As summer turns into fall, do you have a lot of perennials, ornamental grasses, and flowering trees and shrubs to look forward to? If not, you can! Let me tell you about some of my very favorite fall bloomers. 

My favorite fall blooming tree is Seven Sons tree (Heptacodium miconioides). It has 7-tiered panicles of fragrant white flowers that begin in late August and continue into September. After the flowers finish, the sepals turn a bright coral pink, offering another full month of color. This tree has silvery-white exfoliating bark that makes it a standout in the winter landscape. Because it blooms on current year's wood, it can be pruned each spring to keep it to a manageable size. 

If you are looking for a shrub that will turn heads in the fall, plant a beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst'). The flowers on this plant are barely noticeable- clusters of tiny pale pink blooms clothe the stems in August. But once the berries mature, you won't be able to take your eyes off of them because they are intense, dayglow, PURPLE! This is an arching shrub that should be pruned back hard every spring and can be kept 3-5' tall year after year. Beautyberry will grow in sun or shade and it is very deer-resistant. There are many new introductions with burgundy foliage as some with white berries.

Another excellent berrying shrub for fall interest is Symphoricarpos. I used to call this snowberry as the shrubs I knew as a child had big, plump white berries. Now, it is so exciting to see PINK berried forms such as 'Proud Berry' and 'Candy' (shown above). These are complex crosses between various native Symphoricarpos species and are classified as coralberries in the trade. Growing 3-4' tall and wide, these versatile shrubs are hardy to Zone 3. Late summer, dangling bell flowers become fall berries which are not edible but often eaten by the birds in late winter. They are very deer resistant and will grow in full sun or partial shade.

Fall gardens would not be complete without a wide variety of asters. A majority of the asters that we carry at Natureworks are natives. They come in colors of blue, purple, pink, deep rose, white, and lavender. Asters are vital to feed our late season pollinators and beloved by migrating monarchs. 

A few of our favorite asters include:

(note: taxonomists have recently changed the scientific names of many of these asters. The new names are in parenthesis)

Aster laevis 'Bluebird' (Symphotrichum lavae)- this is called the smooth aster as the leaves are oval and smooth. Bright blue flowers in September on 3' tall plants if you pinch this perennial hard in June. An excellent native selection that will grow in sun or part shade.

Aster oblongifolius 'October Skies' (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)- the aromatic aster is very easy to grow in full sun or dappled shade. The scented leaves makes this native species very deer resistant. Large, rounded domes of sky blue flowers cover the plants in October. One hard pinch in June assure you will not have to stake this plant. 'Raydon's Favorite' (shown below) is very similar but begins blooming a week or two later and lasts into November.

Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black' (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum)- the calico aster is a native species that has burgundy new growth and burgundy stems. A bit greener in summer, the leaves turn back to burgundy in the fall and are topped with thousands of tiny white daisies with lavender centers that are constantly covered with pollinators. Will reach 3-4' tall with a hard pinch in June.

Aster umbellatus (Doellingeria umbellata)- the flat topped aster is a wonderful, reliable, very hardy native aster found all throughout New England. A dome of white daisies with yellow centers begins in mid-August and continues until early October. Pinch once in June and it will grow to 3-4'. Leave the back half alone and it will reach 6 feet and start blooming a few weeks earlier. Beloved by monarch butterflies and native pollinators. 

Aster novae-angliae 'Alma Potschke' (symphyotrichum novae-angliae)- New England asters are THE native perennial to support migrating monarchs in the fall. This beloved variety has been in the trade for decades and has brilliant, hot pink daisy flowers with yellow centers. Pinch hard in June and plants will grow 3-4' tall and not need staking. 

These are just a FEW of our favorite fall bloomers. There are so many wonderful plants to choose from to enhance your second season garden. When you come to Natureworks for a visit, be sure to ask a staff member to help you plan your fall garden for succession of bloom. We are happy to help!

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