Column, Looking Back

Flower gardens – the half way mark!

By Mary Ellen Shaw

We are about half way through the allotted time in Vermont to enjoy watching our flowers bloom. If you have a perennial garden you know that it’s a challenge to have constant color through October.

For me the spring garden is probably the one I look forward to the most. After seeing only white snow for over four months I am ready for color. Now is an ideal time of year to decide which bulbs you want to purchase for fall planting. It’s nice to know that once they are in the ground you can forget all about them until they pop up to greet you in the spring.

Soon you will be able to find many of the basic bulbs at the local garden centers along with a few of the more unusual ones. But it’s always fun to try something that is new to you and if that is the case you should start your catalog browsing now. Even if you order early the bulbs won’t be shipped until the proper planting time. One “trick” to prolonging the pleasure of seeing bulb flowers is to select early, mid and late season varieties. Tulips and daffodils are two flowers that offer those options. Just check the package or catalog information for the bloom times. If you are looking for fragrance hyacinths are wonderful. I try to add more every fall to the garden area that is near the city sidewalk. It’s not unusual for people who are walking by to stop and enjoy the scent. Parents have asked me if it’s OK for their children to walk down a few feet and take a whiff. The answer is always, “Yes!” Adding annuals among the perennials is one way to provide color throughout the growing season. Geraniums, marigolds and zinnias are my favorites. My friend Shirley, saves seeds from her marigolds and grows them inside during the winter. She also cuts her impatiens flowers at the end of the season and puts them in water to root. Both flowers are eventually go into containers with potting soil and will be ready to go in the ground next summer. The result is beautiful flowers in her gardens without spending a penny to accomplish it. She was nice enough to share “the fruits of her labor” with me this year. Thanks, Shirley!

But let’s not forget that there are still a couple of months for perennials to bloom in our gardens. Here are some options.

Black-eyed Susan is a good choice for later in the season and can easily be divided after a couple of years.

The Clara Curtis daisy also performs well toward the end of summer. Its pink flowers are a welcome burst of color. They are another flower that is easy to divide.

Autumn sedum is an interesting perennial because its flower heads start off as green, transition to a pinkish shade and finish toward fall with a cranberry color. They can be dried and enjoyed inside.

Asters are another perennial flower that won’t disappoint. The cultivars come in pink, white or purple. Heights vary from about 16 inches to 5 feet depending on your choice.

I consider mums to be a perennial in my garden because I cut them back in the fall and cover them with a mound of leaves. I gradually remove the leaves in late spring and their new green growth is there to greet me. In early July I cut the plants back to about 6” which allows them to be full and not tall and rather leggy. Give it a try this fall with the mum plants that you purchase at local garden centers.

When the mums are done blooming I know it’s time to put the garden to bed for another year. As much as I enjoy my time in the garden it’s good to take a rest and get re-invigorated for another season.

Have fun looking at your choices for bulbs and late blooming perennials. It will be the last hurrah for gardening in 2021!

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