~ Linda Singer

Fall in the garden…..there is much to say AND do. It is also the time of year to admire the plants that bloom so late in the gardening season. I know some of us calculate our dogs’ ages in human equivalents, but what of plants? I am in awe of the flowers that are simply knock-out gorgeous in September and October, after six months of holding their ground in my garden. I have little doubt on the status of my “external” beauty (or lack of) at the end of my life. How do these late bloomers accomplish this amazing feat when most of their garden neighbors (and me) are kaput!?

These were the two plants I highlighted in my garden musing, the fall flowering anemones along with sedum. An unplanned combination that I think works quite well!

So today’s column is a tribute to those plants that feed our souls and eyes in late September. Looking out the windows while enjoying my morning coffee, a large and well-established patch of fall flowering anemones is gently swaying in the breeze. I use this plant to hide the dying foliage of my oriental poppies, and it remains attractive throughout the entire season. It has so many garden-worthy qualities including lovely, round expectant buds on 2-3-foot wiry stems, making them “see-through plants.” They never obstruct the view as my eyes scan the garden. Their buds slowly unfold to reveal mid-toned pink-purple single flowers with a soft yellow interior, followed by seed pods that have winter interest and are attractive to birds. Recently, I acquired a variety called ‘Lilac Wonder,’ which blooms in mid-August and has remained attractive through September. The top side of the flower is white, while the underside has shades of pale purple. Watching the late summer light stream through these petals is indeed a treat. Anemones have long tap roots, making them a little difficult to transplant. However, cooler days and damp soils make this effort worthwhile. I recently visited two garden friends, both of whom had impressive clumps of the white variety, ‘Honorine Jobert.’ It is a Zone 5 plant (translation: may not always survive our winter), late to emerge in the spring, and more than once has been damaged by my gardener’s shovel and/or trowel. I will try again, this time with more patience (and faith) along with an identifying plant label!

Sedum Autumn Joy along with an unusual pink toned sunset

My second favorite for this time of year is sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’ I have many varieties of sedums, as they have nice form and foliage, some with interesting variegation. When in flower, this particular variety creates a stunning visual impact even from a distance. It reminds me of a Persian carpet (Greg’s description) with its earthy, deep red/cranberry tones. I also leave many of these plants uncut for my winter garden. Its flat seed heads are so interesting when coated with frost, and so exciting when birds perch on them in winter, consuming its seed. A plant well-deserving of two “so’s” in one sentence!

I took on this column as a way to think about my life within the context of my garden. The drama of the fall garden (and our natural world) reminds me of the final act of an amazing opera, one we experience anew every year. This season is a closure to the traditional concepts of the flower garden, yet so vital to the cycle of our gardens and lives. We ready our garden beds and prepare ourselves for the shorter days, colder weather, and snowfall, as we anticipate the beauty (and rest) that winter will bring. For now, there is still much to discover. Today my garden is just perfect. It has provided me the opportunity to slow down, appreciate, and cherish what this final act has to offer.

This is a relatively new plant for me, Rudbeckia ‘Little Henry’. It does need a bit of support, but its cheerful thin yellow petals are worth the effort. It stands about four feet high, and beautiful in flower arrangements.

This under-utilized large shrub, Disanthus, has inconspicuous flowers, but glorious heart-shaped Red leaves in Fall. It always gives me reason to pause, admire, and be reminded of the glory of this season.

For me, much of the fall garden is about texture. Asters of different sizes and color, along with sedum (‘Autumn Joy’) and seed heads of a small filipendula create this tapestry of color and interest.

Light through the developing seed pods of a Bugbane, one of Greg’s favorite plants, as he loves the scent. I don’t……I keep plenty around so he is happy!

I like finding things of interest…and the fall garden reveals fascinating transitions from flower to seed. This is one of my favorites, clethra (summersweet). It used to bloom on my birthday…..9/1, now blooming quite a bit earlier. This year I discovered the seed pod glowing with morning sunlight.

‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory….Very late in blooming for me, but the late frost worked to my advantage.

Bees feeding on a fall flowering crocus.

Another seed pod that always gets my attention. I first saw this seed pod when visiting a garden with Val VanMeier. Any guesses?

A white striped gentian. It speaks for itself!

These were cut before frost, Dahlias are a highlight of the fall garden….and almost any vase.

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