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Helianthus salicifolius, perennial

Plant Picks: Annuals and Perennials for Fall

With fall just around the corner, now is a great time to add some blooms and color to your garden for the change of seasons. Keith Tomlinson and Caitlin Akkerhuis have put together their roundup of fall annuals and perennials that make excellent additions to gardens with a variety of conditions and needs – whether you are looking for bright blooms, natives, or plants for pollinators.

Mum, Annual ISTOCK

Chrysanthemums and Dendranthemums

Chrysanthemums, or mums, may be one of the most well known fall flowers, and for good reason. These vibrant plants come in every color imaginable, and bloom for about 4 weeks at a time. When selecting plants from the garden center, try picking ones with buds that are just opening to extend the time you have them in bloom.

Dendranthemums are the perennial version of the Chrysanthemum. You can plant these in the summer, and they will be ready to bloom in the fall.

Monkshood, Perennial

Monkshood

This plant prefers part sun, and will grow throughout the summer, producing vibrant purple flowers during the peak of our fall season. These plants are toxic, which makes them completely deer proof, however you will also want to keep this in mind for your own pets and family when planting.

Pennisetum, Perennial Ornamental Grass

Pennisetum

This family of ornamental grasses are in full bloom during the fall, and include favorites such as fountain grass and millet. These are great plants to add to your garden if you would like to attract birds, who will visit to eat the seeds.

Helianthus salicifolius, perennial

Helianthus salicifolius

This perennial sunflower will bloom in mid-fall. Like the other sunflowers, it features cheery yellow blooms.

Monarch Butterfly on Ascplepias

Asclepias tuberosa

This native is a must-have if you wish to support monarch butterflies. Also known as milkweed, or butterfly weed, it is the only host plant of monarch caterpillars. It will bloom through the fall.

New England Aster

This native aster will bloom well into fall, and is one of the taller varieties of aster. for shorter versions, plant New York Aster or Woods Aster.

Clematis paniculata

Also known as Sweet Autumn Clematis, this climbing plant will grow quickly, so you can easily end up with a plant that covers an area of 6 ft. or so.

Caryopteris

This flower will bloom from late summer through early fall. Mature plants will bloom for up to 8 weeks, making this a great choice if you are looking for long lasting blooms to attract bees and butterflies.

Joe Pye Weed with Monarchs, Perennial, Native

Planting Native to Support Butterflies

By Terry Hershberger, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Every year from June 18-24, we celebrate the pollinators – birds, bees, butterflies and other animals – that we depend on to move pollen from flower to flower and fertilize plants to ensure successful seed and fruit production. One of the most beloved pollinators is the butterfly. We have a multitude of varieties here in the Eastern United States, and anyone can support these important creatures by adding native plants they love to their garden, patio or deck.

Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, Plant NOVA Native

Supporting Butterflies in a Small Garden or Patio

Luckily for anyone living in a town-home, apartment or condo, there are plenty of plants butterflies love that can be grown in a small space or a container. Consider planting a mix of plants butterflies enjoy and host plants for baby caterpillars. Doing this can allow you to see the full life cycle of these beautiful insects from your home!

Container friendly native plants for adult butterflies:

Milkweed

Not only is this plant popular among many kinds of adult butterflies, it also serves as the host plant for Monarch caterpillars. They bloom mid to late summer and some varieties are drought tolerant.

Phlox paniculata and spicebush butterfly Plant NOVA Natives

Garden Phlox 

Phlox needs to be watered weekly during dry spells but is a wonderful plant for attracting butterflies with clusters of blooms.

Rudbeckia Plant NOVA Natives

Black-eyed Susan

This vibrant flower blooms from July to October and is drought resistant once established.

New England Aster Plant NOVA Natives

Aster

For a fall blooming flower, add aster. This plant is popular with a wide range of native butterflies.

Joe-Pye Weed

Joe Pye is tolerant of wet soil, so add it to any poorly draining areas in your yard. Blooms from mid-late summer.

Add these plants to your containers if you want to host caterpillars:

Even in a small space you can host a variety of native butterfly caterpillars! In particular, the Monarch, Black Swallowtail, Baltimore Checkerspot and Common Buckeye all lay their eggs on plants that can be grown in small gardens or on decks in containers.

  • For Monarchs, plant milkweed.
  • Add turtlehead – a relative of the snapdragon – for the Baltimore Checkerspot.
  • Plant dill and parsley for the Black Swallowtail.
  • Consider toadflax or spiderwort for the Common Buckeye.

Supporting Butterflies in Larger Gardens

If you are unlimited when it comes to space for setting up your butterfly garden, the options available to you are limitless for both attracting adults and caterpillars! In addition to all of the plants listed above, there are a variety of native trees that butterflies and their caterpillars love. Turn your garden into a butterfly sanctuary by adding these native plants!

Prunus serotina, Black Cherry, Plant NOVA Native

Black Cherry

Adult Tiger Swallowtails love this plant, and both eastern tiger swallowtails and red spotted purple butterflies lay their eggs on black cherry trees. Clusters of white flowers bloom in spring.

Sassafras

This tree plays host to both spicebush swallowtail and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars.

Willow

This is a host plant for the viceroy caterpillar – a mimic of the monarch butterfly – and also a host for the eastern tiger swallowtail.

Pawpaw

Make a home for the caterpillars of the Zebra Swallowtail by planting the pawpaw. As a native edible fruit-bearing tree, this is a fun addition to any garden.

Thank you to Plant NOVA Natives for contributing the plant photos used in this post. 

Bigleaf Hydrangea, Shrub

Our Hydrangea Picks for Summer Blooms

If you are looking for something to brighten up your summer landscape, hydrangeas are the perfect plant! These beautiful plants bloom in bouquets of large white, pink and blue blossoms. In any garden, hydrangeas can turn a green summer landscape into a show of vibrant flowers.

Here are our hydrangea picks:

Annabelle Hydrangea, Shrub

Annabelle

‘Annabelle’ is a native hydrangea that features stunning white flower clusters up to 12 inches wide. The flowers appear in late spring to summer, often continuing into fall. Strong, straight stems hold up the huge flower heads.

Endless Summer Hydrangea, Shrub

Bigleaf

Arguably the most recognizable of all hydrangeas, bigleaf hydrangeas are in full bloom from June through July. The flowers are come in two shapes – round and softball sized (mophead),

or flat topped and delicate (lace-capped).

With many of these varieties, the blooms tend to be blue in acidic soils and pink in more alkaline soil. Gardeners can change the colors of pink and blue flowers by altering the pH of the soil, but white flowers cannot be changed by altering the soil.

Our Bigleaf Hydrangea Picks

  • ‘Nikko Blue’ – Gigantic, blue flower clusters demand attention in the summer garden
  • ‘Pistachio’ – this dazzling variety features unique lime green and hot pink flowers.
  • Repeat bloomers – these recent introductions will continue blooming throughout the summer. Our favorites are ‘Endless Summer’, ‘Blushing Bride’, ‘Twist-n-Shout’ and ‘Penny Mac’.
Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing Hydrangea

This sprawling, woody vine can reach 30-40 ft. and becomes covered in white, lace-cap flowers up to 10 inches in diameter in the late spring and early summer. It can tolerate part to full shade and climbs up any structures it is places against, or when unsupported, as a mounding, sprawling shrub.

Japanese Hydrangea Vine

Similar to the climbing hydrangea, the Japanese hydrangea vine blooms a little later in the season and has heart-shaped flowers. One of our favorites is ‘Moonlight’, with silver, blue-green leaves and fragrant, white, lace-cap flowers.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Native to the United States, Oakleaf is named for its dark green, oak-like leaves. It produces large creamy white or pink blossoms. This hydrangea provides four season interest with deep mahogany-red leaves in the fall and exfoliating bark in winter.

Limelight Hydrangea, Shrub

Panicle Hydrangea

One of the last hydrangeas to bloom each summer, gardeners prize panicle hydrangeas for their gracefully arching branches and clusters of white flowers.

Our picks

  • ‘Pee Gee’ – This cultivar features prolific, showy blooms and can grow very large – 10-20 feet in height and width. Sometimes it can be trained into a small tree.
  • ‘Tardiva’ – This recent introduction flowers late, in August and September
  • ‘Limelight’ and ‘Little Lime’ – These compact cultivars feature unique light green blooms.
  • ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ and ‘Strawberry Sunday’ – The flowers mature to a strawberry color.

Caring for your hydrangea

Selecting the right location will make growing beautiful hydrangeas that much easier. They thrive in partial sun and moist, well-drained soil. Morning sun and afternoon shade with good air circulation is idea. Allow enough room for your hydrangeas to grow – 4 ft. by 4 ft. for compact varieties and 6 ft. by 6 ft. for larger varieties.

Planting Seedlings for Arbor Day

Update to our seedling giveaway event:

Thank you for your participation in our 2018 Arbor Day seedling giveaway! The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. We encourage you to send us photos of your planting projects at photos@mgcmail.com!

As a garden center, Arbor Day is one of our favorite holidays. Each year we celebrate by encouraging our friends, family and customers to cultivate and care for our environment by planting trees in their gardens.

This year, we are excited to take this celebration a step further by actually giving away native white dogwood seedlings for families to plant! Take on a planting project with your children, your family, or your friends this year to celebrate the environment and add a beautiful new plant to your home and garden. As the white dogwood seedlings grow, they will improve the air quality of our region, create habitats for local wildlife, and serve as a food source for birds, pollinators and other animals.

How to Plant a Seedling

Seedlings can be planted in the ground or in a container. It is best to plant them within 24 hours of bringing it home, but if you cannot do so, keep the roots of your tree moist. Wrap your seedling in plastic and store it in a cool, dark spot between 40 degrees and 60 degrees, then plant your seedling as soon as possible.

Container Planting

Supplies:

  • Container (At least 1 gallon in size and 6-7 inches deep)
  • Water soluble or slow release fertilizer
  • Merrifield Potting Mix

Steps:

  1. Select a container with a drainage hole that is slightly larger than the root system in depth and width (a one-gallon pot that is 6-7 in. deep is generally enough to maintain the growth of the seedling for one year)
  2. Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
  3. Top soil and garden soil are generally too heavy for seedlings. Use Merrifield Potting Mix to get your seedling off to a strong start.
  4. Place the seedling in the container, and fill with Merrifield Potting Mix to the top of the point where the roots begin.
  5. If your potting mix does not contain a slow release fertilizer, apply a slow release fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants. Re-apply once per month.
  6. Water your container thoroughly. Test the soil for moisture regularly and water as needed when the soil is dry.
  7. You can keep your tree in a one-gallon container in a spot with full sun to part shade for approximately one year before transferring it to the ground.

Planting in the ground

Supplies:

  • Shovel
  • Bucket or bowl
  • Mulch
  • Garden hose
  • Watering Wand
  • Merrifield Planting Mix

Steps:

  1. Select a location for your tree. Ideally, it should be sheltered from weather, wildlife and lawn mowers for the first few years, then transplanted to another location. If you will be planting it in the spot you intend to be its permanent location, place a fence around the tree to protect it from lawn mowers and foraging wildlife.
  2. Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
  3. Dig a hole as deep as the depth of the roots for your seedling, allowing plenty of room around it for the roots to grow and spread out.
  4. Place your seedling in the hole, making sure that the top of the roots is at the level of the soil line.
  5. Mix your existing soil with Merrifield Planting Mix or other soil conditioner and use this mixture to backfill the hole.
  6. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants once per month.
  7. Water thoroughly and deeply with your watering wand, saturating the root zone. Water deeply whenever the soil is dry to encourage deep roots.
  8. After planting, mulch 2-3 inches deep around the seedling to retain soil temperature and moisture. Leave unmulched soil around the trunk.

Celebrating Arbor Day

Looking to celebrate Arbor Day with a planting project, but prefer to plant a tree larger than a seedling?

Visit our post on trees and shrubs that grow well in our region.

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