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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.

Summer Container, Vinca, Calamint and Persian Shield

Summer Container Garden Inspiration

Container gardens are a great way to add color to any size garden, since they pack a powerful punch of vibrant blooms and foliage into one space. They are moveable, adjustable, and delightful additions to any garden. With summer still in full swing, now is the perfect time to create a colorful and exciting container for your home.

When choosing or building your container garden, the goal is to achieve the ideal combination of plants that thrill, spill, and fill:

  • Thrill plants draw your eye into the container, creating a focal point through height, color, bloom or texture.
  • Spill plants draw your eye down and through the container by trailing over the edge.
  • Fill plants are those that help to fill the voids in the pot. They typically provide contrast to your thrill plant and add interest

Our favorite aspect about container gardens is the customization—you can use any combination of plants that you enjoy to create one you love. Check out our step-by-step guide to creating a custom container garden, and take a look at our designs below if you want some inspiration. Of course, if you prefer to have some assistance putting yours together, our specialists are happy to help!

Summer annuals and perennials provide vibrant color even in the heat of the season. Here are some of our favorite plant selections for the season:

Our Plant Picks for Sun

(1) Celosia, (2) Pentas, (3) Rudbeckia- annual, (4) Cuphea (Mexican Heather), (5) Euphorbia, (6) Angelonia, (7) Ageratum, (8) Celosia, (9) Lantana, (10) Petunia, (11) Verbena, (12) Calibrachoa.

Our Plant Picks for Shade

(1) Tassel Fern, (2) Coleus, (3) New Guinean Impatiens, (4) Japanese Forest Grass, (5) Begonia, (6) Lysimachia ‘Aurea’ (Creeping Jenny), (7) Trailing Coleus, (8) Heuchera (Coral Bells).

Container Design Inspiration

Tropical Container with Elephant Ears, Coleus, Verbena

Clockwise from top: Elephant Ear, Trailing Coleus, Verbena, Petunia, Trailing Coleus. This dramatic container for sun makes a statement – elephant ears with their bold foliage and sweeping height grab attention and the vibrant colors of coleus, petunia and verbena complement it with color and blooms at the base. Add this container to any space for a tropical feel.

Summer Container Angelonia, Creeping Jenny

Angelonia (top) and Creeping Jenny (bottom). We love the simplicity of this container, which while only containing two types of plants, is still bursting with summer color and blooms. The elegant stalks of angelonia create texture and movement and the bright green of the creeping Jenny contrasts nicely with the blooms and dark green of the Angelonia.

Clockwise from top: Calamint, Bachelor’s Button, Iresine (Cherry Blood Leaf), Vinca, Iresine (Variegated Heart Blood Leaf). This vibrant container is packed full of cheerful vinca and vibrant bachelor’s button. Calamint—which has a lovely scent, cherry blood leaf and variegated heart blood leaf serve as the “thrill” plants drawing the eye upwards, while the vinca trails down the sides. This container will be bursting with color all season!

Summer Shade Container with Begonia, heuchera, Japanese stiltgrass and ferns

Clockwise from the top: Begonia, tassel fern, heuchera, Japanese forest grass. The tonal color palette and varying textures of this container will draw the eye to even the shadiest spot of a garden. Begonia provides a pop of color, while perennial Japanese forest grass, heuchera and tassel fern provide interest with contrasting textures and shades of green.

Caring for Your Containers

Here are some basics that will help you keep your containers healthy and beautiful during the summer:

  • Larger containers hold water better, so bigger is better when picking your size—you will need to water less with a larger container.
  • Since summer brings the heat, you will need to check your container for watering once or even twice per day. Only water when the soil is dry—and then follow our watering instructions and water the container thoroughly. If you are leaving town on summer vacation, create a watering plan for your time away! Ask a neighbor or friend to check on your containers every day and care for them as needed.
  • We recommend using a bloom boosting fertilizer to keep the blooms fresh all season. Miracle Grow Bloom Booster and Doctor Earth Bloom Booster, an organic option, stimulate new blooms and flowers and keeps them looking fresh in the summer heat. If you have a lot of containers, you can purchase one of these fertilizers with a hose end applicator to combine your watering and fertilization into one task. Lastly, make sure you deadhead the blooms as they die off in order to encourage further blooms and keep your container’s stunning appearance.
Hellebore with bees, Perennial

Perennial Winter Wanderings

As many of us have experienced these past few weeks with the temperatures bouncing back and forth between 10 and 60 degrees, winter weather is “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  Sometimes frigid temperatures keep us indoors, and sometimes we are fortunate to have almost tropical days in the midst of the frigid ones. I love to wonder around my garden and the garden center on these warm 60-degree days to see what is going on among the plants. While the winter landscape may seem to be fast asleep, there are actually many things to see and enjoy in the forms of wildlife, blooms, bark, and foliage.

Blooms

Hellebore with bees, Perennial

Hellebore

My most recent walk around the garden center revealed the Christmas Rose’s (Hellebore niger ‘Jacob’) white blossoms in full bloom. The weather has been so warm that the honey bees were even out foraging upon them! This compact perennial is shade loving, evergreen, winter blooming and a warm-spell pollinator savior. There are numerous types of hellebore which bloom later in the winter through early spring, but this variety has been blooming now for several weeks.

Paperbush

Paperbush

Another sight to behold right now is the Paperbush (Edgeworthia) shrub. This plant features beautiful, spotty bark covered with dangling umbrella looking yellowish blossoms at the tips. I have one strategically placed under a window on the east side of my house, so that when those warm days of winter show up, I can open the window and let its beautiful fragrance float in. Since it’s a zone 7 shrub, this placement by the house also helps to protect it during long, severe cold snaps.

Buds and Foliage

Dwarf Mondo

Planted under my Paperbush is the daintiest of evergreen groundcovers that can live in the deepest shade. Dwarf Mondo (Ophiopogon ‘Nana’) measures in at only 2-3” tall. I can only see it in the fall and winter, after the Paperbush has shed its leaves. A hidden treasure of tiny cobalt blue drupes hides within its foliage if you get down on your knees and move the foliage around. This plant is a slow spreader, but worth it for its beauty and ability to grow in deep shade.

Candytuff

Continuing my walk, my Candytuff (Iberis) with its little evergreen shiny leaves has swollen white buds ready to pop when spring arrives. It contrasts nicely in front of the purple toned winter foliage of my azaleas. I love to see these signs that spring is on its way!

Seed Pods

There are a number of plants whose seed pods look splendid in the winter. As a bonus, many of these plants attract birds, who find the seeds a valuable food source during a season where resources are scarce.

Siberian Iris Seed Pods

Siberian Iris

Looking splendid when “dead” for the winter, the bronze seed pods of the Siberian Iris protrude out like a porcupine’s quills. This Iris brings architectural interest to the garden all season long, and it does very well in the clay soil of our northern Virginia region. Of course, it is also beautiful during its bloom season – I know it doesn’t flower long, but when it does, it’s like a gorgeous, floppy butterfly.

Rudbeckia Seed head

Black-Eyed Susan

At the end of my garden walk, birds were feasting and frolicking around the numerous seed heads of the Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia). The seedheads of this plant look lovely when left standing in the winter, and of course, it is wonderful to provide food for the birds.

ISTOCK, Hummingbird, Cardinal Flower

Attract Hummingbirds to Your Backyard

Terry Hershberger, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Every spring I look forward to the arrival of hummingbirds in my garden. These agile birds use their wings (which beat between 70 to 200 times per second) to hover in place, fly backwards, and even fly upside down! Not only are these amazing creatures fun to watch, they also make excellent pollinators, visiting as many as 1,000 to 2,000 flowers each day to make up for the energy they expend performing their aerial acrobatics. Here in Virginia we most often see the Ruby Throated Hummingbird. The males in this breed are instantly recognizable by their bright red throats.

You can easily create a sanctuary for these incredible birds at your own home with bright flowers, a supplemental nectar feeder and a hummingbird friendly water source.

Bright Flowers

Catch the eye of local hummingbirds with brightly colored flowers. Some sources say that hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red, I find that the color does not matter as much as the sugar content of the flower’s nectar (ideally 10 to 11%). Tubular or elongated flowers are best suited to the shape of hummingbird tongue, which folds to form a straw. I plant a variety of flowering plants to attract birds throughout the spring and summer.

Perennials

Bee balm: Blooming in mid to late summer, beebalm’s tubular flowers make the perfect addition to a hummingbird garden. Try the Jacob’s Cline variety for a native plant option.

Native cardinal flower: Due to the shape of this vibrant red flower, most insects are not able to feed from this plant, making it the perfect option for people seeking to attract hummingbirds but keep away other critters.

Annuals and Bulbs

Gladiolus: These showy bulbs produce tall spikes of flowers in an array of vibrant colors. Plant these bulbs after the danger of frost has passed in spring and you can expect flowers in the summer.

Gartenmeister fuchsia: This plant grows in full or partial shade and is an excellent addition to any hummingbird garden with orange, tubular flowers.

Vines

Honeysuckle: Grow this flowering vine on a fence or trellis for blooms that you can enjoy during spring and summer.

Trumpet vine: The yellow, orange, or red flowers of the trumpet vine make it a cheerful addition to a hummingbird garden! These vines grow very quickly and will need pruning. Blooms from summer to fall.

Supplemental Food Source

Hummingbirds need to eat every 10 to 15 minutes, every day to sustain their energy. They supplement their diets with food from a nectar feeder. Hang one at your home to provide them with an extra food source. You can purchase food for the feeder or make your own.

To make your own hummingbird food, boil four parts water and mix in one part white granulated cane sugar. Do not use brown sugar or honey as they can both harm the birds. It is very important to clean the feeder with hot water or a vinegar solution at least once per week as the sugar can ferment and spoil. If the weather is particularly hot, consider cleaning the feeder every 3 to 4 days to keep any visitors safe. Hang your feeder in the shade to preserve the sugar solution. Hummingbirds will continue to visit your feeder until they migrate south in the fall. You can take your feeder down in the middle of September if you are concerned that it might be causing any birds to linger too long.

If you need to protect your feeder from uninvited guests like ants and bees, try using ant guard or Tanglefoot Insect Barrier to protect the feeder by applying it in a small strip where the hummingbirds do not land. The base of the shepherd’s hook where your feeder hangs is a good locations. Consider adding bee guards if bees start snacking at the feeder, as a bee sting can cause serious harm to a tiny hummingbird.

Water

A bird bath is not the best option for hummingbirds since most are too deep. A drip fountain or misting device is a great alternative that they can easily access. You can also run a sprinkler in your yard, and the birds will fly through it to catch the water droplets.

Coneflower and Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Plant List for Butterfly Gardens

Flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar, butterflies are absolutely wonderful in the garden.

Unfortunately, because of the loss of habitat and the indiscriminate use of pesticides, the butterfly population is declining.

But with just a little bit of effort, you can encourage more of these delicate beauties to visit your garden – and extend their stay.

Choose a sunny location protected from wind. As butterflies are near-sighted, it’s best to create a large patch of flower species boasting vibrant colors and sweet scents. Select plants of differing heights, colors and bloom times to attract butterflies throughout the season.

Butterflies enjoy sweet liquids, such as nectar from flowers, which supplies them with an energy source.  Annuals provide nectar all summer, while perennials provide it when they’re blooming.

As you might expect, Butterfly Bush and Butterfly Weed are great plants to attract butterflies. But they’re not the only ones. Here are some other plants that butterflies truly love:  Astilbe, Black-Eyed Susan, Catmint, Coneflower, Daylily, Salvia, Tickseed and Yarrow.

In addition to growing a butterfly friendly habitat, make caterpillars welcome in your garden. True, caterpillars feed on plants. But without caterpillars there would be no beautiful butterflies. Watching a caterpillar change into a butterfly is one of the most fascinating things about butterfly gardens.

Caterpillars can be very discriminating in the plants they feed on.  Pipevine Swallowtail feed exclusively on Pipevine, Monarchs on Milkweed and Fritillary on Violas. So if you want to watch these butterflies, select plants for both the larvae and adults.

Annuals

Common Name Botanical Name
Cosmos Cosmos
Flowering Tobacco Nicotiana
French Marigold Tagetes
Heliotrope Heliotropium
Hardy Hibiscus Hibiscus
Lantana Lantana
Mimulus Mimulus
Petunia Petunia
Salvia Salvia
Snapdragon Antirrhinum
Sunflower Helianthus
Verbena Verbena
Violet Violet
Zinnia Zinnia

Perennials

Common Name Botanical Name
Anemone Anemone
Aster Aster
Astilbe Astilbe
Beardstongue Penstemon
Bee Balm Monarda
Bellflower Campanula
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia
Blanket Flower Gaillardia
Bleeding Heart Dicentra
Blue Beard Caryopteris
Butterfly Bush Buddleia
Butterfly Weed Asclepias
Candytuft Iberis
Cardinal Flower Lobelia
Catmint Nepeta
Cinquefoil Pontentilla
Cornflower Centaurea
Creeping & Summer Phlox Phlox
Dame’s Rocket Hesperis
Daylily Hemerocalilis
Foxglove Digitalis
Globe Thistle Echinops
Goldenrod Solidago
Hardy Geranium Geranium
Hardy Mem Chrysanthemum
Hollyhock Alcea
Iris Iris
Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium
Lavender Lavandula
Lily Lillium
Onion Allium
Pincushion Flower Scabiosa
Plumbago Ceratostigma
Red Hot Poker Kniphofia
Rockcress Arabis
Rosemary Rosemarinus
Salvia Salvia
Speedwell Veronica
Stoke’s Aster Stokesia
Stonecrop Sedum
Sundrops Oenothera
Sunflower Helianthus
Tickseed Chelone
Verbena Verbena
Whorling Butterflies Gaura
Wormwood Artemesia
Yarrow Achillea

Trees

Common Name Botanical Name
Chaste Tree Vitex
Cherry Prunus
Crabapple Malus
Fringtree Chionanthus
Golden Rain Tree Laburnum
Silk Tree Mimosa
Yellowood Cladrastis

Vines

Common Name Botanical Name
Clematis Clematis
Dragon Lady Crossvine Bigonia
Hardy Passion Vine Passiflora
Honeysuckle Lonicera
Morning Glory Ipomoea
Trumpet Creeper Campsis
Wisteria Wisteria

 

 

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