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Perennial border a bright spot during fall

| Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Boltonia 'Snowbank' is a reliable perennial Credit: Jessica Walliser

My favorite part of autumn gardening is the perennial border. During September, October and November, there is a lot going on in my perennial beds. All the ‘perennial love” I feel this time of year is because some of my favorite flowers are fall bloomers and they are showing their stuff right now.

Boltonia has to be one of my all-time top perennial picks. I love the tiny, white, daisy-like flowers and the grey-green foliage — not to mention the fact that the plant stands 3 feet tall but never requires staking. They've got some fancy, new varieties in other colors on the market, but good old ‘Snowbank' is still tops for me.

My fall blooming anemones (‘September Charm” in particular) are loaded with flowers that look a lot like little butterflies on sticks. Their puffy seed heads are a favorite, too. My toad lilies are blooming their heads off in the shade garden (when not much else is) and Aster ‘Purple Dome” has managed to escape the local deer herd for now.

I've never been a big fan of the ubiquitous hardy mum, but I sure do enjoy true perennial mums. Chrysanthemum x rubellum ‘Clara Curtis” and ‘Mary Stoker” have been in bloom as late as Thanksgiving at my house and, depending on the weather, they'll remain in bloom for many weeks. I love them as much in cut-flower arrangements as I do in the garden. And, of course, goldenrods bring a lot to the fall border, too. Solidago ‘Golden Fleece” is a miniature variety and ‘Fireworks” is a slender-flowered, tall variety and another favorite for bringing inside in a vase.

No fall garden would be complete without a few late-season sedums tossed into the mix. ‘Autumn Joy” is easy to find on the market, and is a fine plant, but I prefer ‘Brilliant” and ‘Matrona” for something a little different. Sedums have beautiful succulent foliage all season long, which does add interest during the summer months, but autumn is when they really shine. I leave mine to stand through the winter, as well. The birds love perching on them and the snow resting on the flat flowers is a nice bit of winter interest within the border. I pinch each stem once during the growing season (about mid-June) to encourage branching and more blooms on my fall-blooming sedums. This also helps the plant maintain its sturdiness and often eliminates the need for staking in taller, top-heavy varieties.

And last is the Nippon daisy (Chrysanthemum nipponicum). Many gardeners aren't familiar with this great plant, and those of us in need of some fall color should add it to the border. A shasta-type daisy with white petals and a yellow eye, each bloom can reach 2 to 4 inches across. Nippon daisies bloom very late and also are blessed with attractive glossy leaves. Plants can grow 2 or 3 feet in height and equally as wide, so they make a pretty bold statement in the late-season garden.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts ‘The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including ‘Grow Organic” and ‘Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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