Mum’s the word. Or is it?
Chrysanthemums are ubiquitous, popping up in gardens, on doorsteps, by mailboxes and storefronts, a sure sign of fall.
I have a soft spot for the tumble of peach-toned blooms that are Sheffield mums. Naughty kids that bumble over other blooms in rowdy heaps, they are gorgeous and reliably hardy, unlike many other mums. But why limit yourself – and your garden – to mums? Many other perennials jazz up the fall garden, adding delicious colors, textures, and scents.
Aptly named by Carl Linnaeus after the Latin word for “star,” asters boast abundant daisy-like flowers in pink, purple, blue, or white. Ranging from one to six feet tall, they fit every garden. Two-foot ‘Purple Dome’ needs no staking, but taller varieties such as the striking native New England aster need support to avoid the dreaded flop.
I have a thing for anemones. Their delicate flowers dance in the slightest breeze. Single or double blooms in white, pink, or lavender float on tall stems like leggy chorus girls. Also attractive are anemone’s seed heads: fluffy cotton balls sprinkled with seeds. Kids love to play with them. Me, too.
Goldenrods stretch their arms through gardens in late summer and fall, adding a flash of gold. Tall airy types abound as do compact cultivars such as ‘Golden Fleece.’ Ten native goldenrods thrive here.
The garlic chives in our demonstration garden are going bonkers, their white pom-poms bustling with pollinators. A clump-forming perennial herb, its flowers and leaves are edible.
Garlic chives produce abundant seeds, so be ruthless in cutting off their flower heads before they go to seed. And yes, you can get your jollies by shouting, “Off with their heads!” My apologies to Lewis Carroll.
Call them commoners, but native black-eyed Susans are tough broads that look good in fall. Their golden blooms surround a dark “eye” that fills with seeds to feed birds and other wildlife.
Maryland’s state flowers, they are often marked “vigorous” on plant tags, meaning they tend to spread. So place them carefully with other robust plants or let them go unbridled in a wilder area.
Leave black-eyed Susans’ stems standing to add winter interest. In fact, leave all of your perennials standing except those that had serious disease or insect issues or are spreading beyond reason.
Why? Beneficial insects overwinter in their stems and under fallen leaves. Their seeds provide food for wildlife and their structure offers cover. So wait to cut perennials back until spring.
Fall is here. I hope I’ve inspired you to look beyond mums to rev up the color, impact, and wildlife value of your fall garden.
By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.
This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media.