Fall Stars: Garden greats for autumn color

Posted by admin in Autumn Garden

As the August sun emblazes our stifling summer skies, gardeners gaze with despair across tired, weather-worn beds and ill-fated patio pots. Many of us plagued by drought earlier this spring, have grown weary of tugging hoses, shifting sprinklers, and praying for rain, some of us resorting to the notion that only the toughest will survive—a thought that has crossed my mind regarding my own landscape this year. Observing the remnants of what were once tuberous begonias (ironically, these were the containers I watered with steadfast care), and assessing my losses from annuals like gazanias, fuchsias, and geraniums, I have no choice but to start planning my fall flowerbeds and designing new container recipes.

Although August is a bit early for planting—its excessive high heat often proves fatal for tender root systems—this is no doubt the best time to consider fresh alternatives for the fall. Impress your garden guests with reliable color in your landscape and patio by integrating extraordinary panache with dependable favorites. As garden centers gear up for the cool season ahead, look for dependable varieties like ‘Dreamtime’ Bracteantha, ‘Diamond Frost’ Euphorbia, Supertunias, ‘Swan’ Aquilegia, ‘Camelot’ foxgloves, and ‘Velour Frosted Chocolate’ violas. Remember, August is for planning, not planting; cool season growers like Aquilegia, foxgloves, and violas should not be planted before October, so simply leave space for these popular picks until temperatures have fallen.

Dreamtime Bracteantha

Brighten sunny patios and flowerbeds this fall with ‘Dreamtime Jumbo Red Ember’ Bracteantha. These vibrant strawflowers, durable in both warm and cool seasons, bloom from spring through fall, neatly mounding 10 to12 inches in height. Their downy gray-green foliage is illuminated by turgid, golden orange discs.

Coppery red petals beautifully singe the rims, casting a scintillating glow across the flowering mounds all season long. Keep your ‘Red Ember’ burning all winter as well, by moving potted Bracteantha indoors during a freeze. Let these eye-catching strawflowers take center stage in containers, or mix them in flowerbeds with ‘Dreamtime Jumbo Yellow’ Bracteantha, ‘Harvest Moon’ echinacea, and ‘Cherokee Sunset’ Rudbeckia for a radiant fall display. Heighten your show with ornamental grasses like ‘Fireworks’ pennisetum, ‘Cappuccino’ grass, and Muhlenbergia capillaris.

Diamond Frost Euphorbia

Amplify fall blooming hanging baskets and mixed containers with ‘Diamond Frost’ Euphorbia. Boasting incessant clouds of wispy white flowers and smooth dainty emerald foliage, ‘Diamond Frost’ proves perfect for filling between bolder blooming plants. Not afraid to share the spotlight with more auspicious sun coleus or Supertunias, this outstanding Euphorbia promises sheer elegance and unwavering color from spring through fall. ‘Diamond Frost’ mounds 12 to 18 inches tall, while sometimes stretching its wanton limbs up to two feet from the center.

Though seemingly delicate at first glance, this durable filler favorite not only withstands Louisiana summers, but it tolerates temperatures down to 40 degrees F as well. Like Bracteantha, ‘Diamond Frost’ can also be overwintered if properly protected during freezes. For best foliar color, plant ‘Diamond Frost’ Euphorbia in containers that receive partial sunlight. Create a captivating show by interspersing this refined beauty amid petunias like ‘Supertunia Vista Fuchsia’ or ‘Supertunia Raspberry Blast’. Consider also employing ‘Diamond Frost’ as a filler for ‘Tuscan Sun’ Heliopsis, ‘Henna’ sun coleus, or double blooming impatiens like ‘Fiesta Burgundy’, ‘Fiesta Appleblossom’, and ‘Fiesta Rose’. Lengthen your planting of ‘Diamond Frost’ this winter by integrating it amid indoor potted arrangements of your favorite poinsettias.

Supertunia Vista Silverberry Petunia

If you like petunias, try ‘Supertunia Vista Silverberry’, a Proven Winners Selection that spreads almost five feet in diameter. As their name suggests, these super petunias are vigorous growers that bloom freely from spring through fall, yielding bounties of silvery white trumpets, etched with lavender pink throats and soft pink veins. ‘Vista Silverberry’ notably stands over two feet tall, making it an excellent choice for large containers or landscape plantings.

Although ‘Vista Silverberry’ will survive winters when planted in flowerbeds, potted plants require protection when temperatures drop below freezing. Keep in mind also that petunias are heavy feeders; fertilize them once a month with a slow-release granular fertilizer during the growing season to retain lush green growth and profusions of blooms, and if necessary, supplement with a water-soluble fertilizer. Maintain the healthy appearance and vigor of petunias by trimming them in late spring and summer. Plant ‘Supertunia Vista Silverberry’ singly in containers, or mix in flowerbeds amid other supertunias like ‘Bermuda Beach’, ‘Raspberry Blast’, ‘Vista Fuchsia’, and ‘Vista Bubblegum’. For a stellar fall display, let ‘Vista Silverberry’ cascade along the periphery of purple muhly grass, or pennisetums like ‘Fireworks’ or ‘Red Bunny Tails’.

Swan Aquilegia

Stimulate an abundance of blossoms next spring by planting ‘Swan’ Aquilegia, a tough hybrid columbine, whose brilliant flowers promise rich vibrant blooms and unending color. This astounding cultivar, praised also for its phenomenal winter performance and persistence into early summer, has been selected by the LSU Ag Center as a Louisiana Super Plant, beginning in October 2011. (The Louisiana Super Plant program is an educational and marketing campaign, begun, that advertises durable and attractive plants that perform consistently well in Louisiana landscapes.) ‘Swan’ Aquilegia, a hardy cool season annual for both north and south Louisiana, thrives in full to partial sunlight and well-drained soil. Its slightly scalloped blue-green leaves form delicate clumps that average two feet tall.

Slender stems peek gracefully from the tops in spring, as they gingerly wave striking flowers of iridescent blue and white, as well as burgundy, rose, creamy yellow, violet, crimson, and pure white. Achieve optimum blooms next spring by starting your columbine in October; the more established your Aquilegia are for the spring, the more flowers they will yield. Plant masses of your favorite ‘Swan’, and incorporate them as well with other early spring bloomers like ‘Blue Butterfly’ and ‘Pacific Giant’ delphiniums, ‘Camelot’ foxgloves, and Texas bluebonnets.

Camelot Foxgloves

Camelot’ foxgloves, introduced as Louisiana Super Plants in spring 2011, also offer a plethora of spring color when planted in the fall. Their thick tufts of sea-green leaves swell almost one foot across, and yield majestic spires of bell-shaped blossoms. ‘Camelot’s’ regal stalks stand two to three feet in height, as they show off inimitable deep-throated flowers, with lavishly speckled gullets and soft-scented perfumes.

‘Camelot’ foxgloves, best planted from October to December, bloom pure white, lavender, cream, and rosy pink blossoms from February through May. Integrate clusters of ‘Camelot’ foxgloves with ‘Pacific Giant’ delphiniums, ornamental flowering cabbage, and other Louisiana Super Plants like ‘Swan’ Aquilegia and ‘Redbor’ flowering kale.

Velour Frosted Chocolate Viola

Save a spot in your flowerbeds or planters this fall for ‘Velour Frosted Chocolate’ violas, an enticing new cultivar that blooms from late fall through early summer. These remarkable, miniature mocha colored pansies boast lemony yellow centers, their faces highlighted by lustrous golden edges and lightly frosted petals. Dark chocolate veins flow handsomely through their faces, as they disseminate life to these annuals well past summer’s arrival. ‘Velour Frosted Chocolate’ violas grow six inches tall, and prove perfect for both flowerbeds and mixed containers. Although violas should not be planted before mid October, save a spot now for these cool season lovers, and intersperse with container favorites like ‘Cappuccino’ grass, ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ Rudbeckia, and ‘Diamond Frost’ Euphorbia, as well as other violas like ‘Sorbet Coconut Swirl’ and ‘Sorbet Lemon Chiffon’.

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