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September Spectacular


As the blooms of early summer fade, gardeners stave off shorter days and evening chills with warm floral displays. It can be the showiest time of year-when temperatures are less intense and the air is crisper.

As the blooms of early summer fade, gardeners stave off shorter days and evening chills with warm floral displays. It can be the showiest time of year–when temperatures are less intense and the air is crisper.

A well-planned garden has something in bloom from spring to fall. Late bloomers are just hitting their stride and many are having a second flush. Foliage is as important as flowers at this time of year; changes in both complement each other.

The garden’s structure is well established by late summer, with short, bushy border liners in the foreground, medium-height plants in the midground, and tall plants towering at the back.

In the front of the border, hardy mums’ ochre, crimson, and gold blossoms bloom until the first hard freeze. Purple fleabane is also good here. Ornamental cabbage and flowering kale add edibility and interest. Sedum Autumn Joy is just that, with pink flat-topped flowers atop succulent leaves that turn colour. Bloody Cranesbill geranium foliage turns copper and amber, adding interest once blooms have faded.

Annuals planted from seed in the spring reward royally with blooms now. Snapdragons and calendula flesh out the midground. Single plant features, such as elephant ear’s maroon foliage and yellow daisylike flowers, add a touch of the exotic, complementing velvet sandstone cherry leaves on shrubs. Rudbeckia and gaillardias’ mix of yellow to blood red-streaked blossoms add fullness to this area, as do stands of bee balm. Blazing stars add height and purple pungency. Rose bushes bloom undeterred by early frosts while berries punctuate cranberry bushes, and crimson burning bushes set the garden afire.

Towering at the back of the garden, hollyhocks’ tissuelike flowers range in colour from white to dark. For a touch of drama, try the Nigra variety, known as the black hollyhock for its deep purple hue. Enjoy sunflowers’ cheerful blooms while they last; the first hard frost will take them with it. Virginia Creeper turning crimson on the patio wall or arbour is unbeatable for foliage.

Planters in bloom can be brought indoors or moved into sheltered areas when there is fear of frost, tricking Mother Nature into an extended summer. Try something unexpected in large planters, such as single-species plantings of mixed-coloured zinnias or glorious gladiolas. They catch the deepening angle of light in a way that will leave you breathless.

Plant herb seeds in planters on kitchen windowsills, bringing a taste of summer indoors all winter long. Transplant herbs from the garden in pots, but place them in your best light as they do not respond well to diminishing light.

Despite all the beauty around you, it is time to do a little preparation before fall cleanup.

Gardens in September are your just dessert for summer’s upkeep and work. Take time to simply “be” and savour the last taste of summer. Soak in the cornucopia of colour.

Your Late Summer to-Do List in the Garden:

  1. Split perennials no longer in bloom, so they will not be “knocked back” when transplanted the following spring.
  2. Dig up geraniums and hang dry rooted in the cool basement for replanting next spring.
  3. Dig up tuberous begonias and dry them out for storage. Store gladiola bulbs indoors wrapped in burlap.
  4. Split bulbs and buy new ones to plant now for spring–daffodils, crocuses, irises, and tulips. Add a little bone meal when planting bulbs to encourage root development.
  5. Go shopping! Perennials, shrubs, and trees are on sale in September. If planted now, they will have time to take root before winter.
  6. Continue watering the gardens. Trees especially need a long drink before winter in dry climates.


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Leah PayneLeah Payne