Halloween is within sight but your mind isn’t on costumes or trick-or-treat candy. You’re savoring one of the last evenings on your deck, appreciating the trees as their fall color is illuminated by the setting sun. You’re relishing each gathering around the fire pit, and every sprig of fragrant herbs and foliage you pick for fall cocktails. The firelight illuminates the faces of friends and family, as they toast memories of high school football games, carving pumpkins, and toasting marshmallows. Someone recalls being young and loose in the neighborhood, dashing free through the rapidly darkening evenings as fall turns toward winter.
And the background for all of this are the late-autumn plants. They’ve been there all summer, of course, but like your memories of warm sun and crisp autumnal temperatures, they are even more glorious in late-October. They create the perfect setting in your yard and garden for these fall celebrations.
In order to have these flowers and foliage grace your deck, patio, and fire pit plantings next fall, however, you’ll need to plant them in the spring. Get out your cell phone and make a note on your April calendar.
Even the wild turkeys seem drawn to this garden as the Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’ comes into flower. This plant has bright lime-yellow foliage all summer, but it’s not just a colorful annual…it’s also useful in a variety of pineapple sage cocktails. Golden Delicious only flowers late in October, making it even more rare and precious in the garden.
Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’ can be ordered from Avant Gardens.
Other annuals for cold-climate fall gardens are Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ and Hibiscus acetosella. The salvia starts to become showy as the lime-green bracts form, soon to be ornamented with bright blue flowers. When this plant is placed next to the burgundy-leaved Hibiscus acetosella, you have an eye-catching combination.
I’ve ordered the Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ from High Country Gardens, and purchased the burgundy foliaged Hibiscus from my local country garden, Hyannis Country Garden.
We used to call them chrysanthemums, but now they are Dendranthema. Labels aside, you can’t have a fall garden without them. This one is ‘Cambodian Queen.’ Look for ‘Sheffield Pink’, ‘Red October’ and ‘Mary Stoker’ if you want a rainbow of daisies for picking and catching the last warm rays at sunset.
Look for Cambodian Queen at Plant Delights Nursery.
What would we do without plants that make us laugh? As guests arrive, give them a cocktail or a beer and then lead them into the garden where they can see that you’re growing hairy balls. YES, you are truly growing hairy balls and whether your company is 6 or 96, they will love this plant. Call it Gomphocarpus physocarpus, balloon plant, or hairy balls, this tall plant makes everyone smile.
You can experience the pleasure of watching hairy balls grow from seed. Plant the seeds and check on them every morning with a steaming cup of coffee. “Are they up yet?” It’s an AM treasure hunt and after a few days you’ll be delighted to see eager seedlings popping out of the soil. “I’ve got balls!” you’ll gleefully call out. “I’m growing hairy balls!”
And speaking of annuals that come into their own in October, we can’t forget the dahlias. If you want to collect a flowering plant, this is the one to look to first. You can have dinner-plate sized flowers or blooms scaled for boutonnieres. Clear, bright colors, and the more you pick the more they flower. Take every clear glass bottle out of the recycling bin and turn it into a vase for dahlias. Imagine flowers in every room of the house, with enough left over to make random-acts-of-kindness-bouquets for all the store clerks, teachers and sullen teenagers you will run into tomorrow. Dahlias are a MUST grow plant for fall flowers.
You can’t step sideways without finding a great source of dahlias in the spring. Order tubers online from Brent and Becky. Discover dahlia cuttings from Corralitos in Colorado, or buy locally on Cape Cod from Country Garden.
Yes, the plants that embrace your autumnal celebrations are colorful and exciting. They add their fragrance, texture and color to each hour as fall turns into early winter.