Have you looked at the long-term weather forecast? The first week of September is well on the way to being in the upper 70s, the first time in a long time that we’ve consistently seen something from the upper 80s and low 90s. Night lows will be in the 60s. Autumn is definitely around the corner! And even though the mercury still says “summer”, gardeners know it’s time for autumn planting.
I love this time of year. The cool temperatures inspire me to be more active in the garden instead of just looking after what is available. And the anticipation of autumn and the changing leaf colors makes me think about adding deeper, more “traditional” autumn colors – burgundy, orange, gold – to the terrace.
An easy, time-honored way to bring these colors to the landscape is with chrysanthemums. These members of the aster family are native to East Asia and Northern Europe. Fortunately, while they add color, texture and tolerance to cold to our gardens, they do not become “aggressive” or invasive; we can count on them to stay where we plant them.
Although there are a number of diseases that can affect chrysanthemums, mothers are relatively harmless. However, drought leads to lignified, stunted growth, and overhydration leads to yellowing leaves that turn black and fall off. So, pay attention to the placement and watering. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/chrysanthemum-diseases-insekt-pests/
Before you go shopping, think about your basic plan: would you like to add a splash of color to your patio or patio in autumn, or would you like to make chrysanthemums part of your perennial garden? Either annual mothers or hardy mothers are fine in containers, but if you want the plants to come back year after year, look for sturdy mothers.
In any case, besides the good autumn color, chrysanthemums have the additional advantage of being a good source of nectar for butterflies in the late season.
You can shop at your local garden center or, if you prefer to shop from home, Proven Winners (PW) has an assortment of nearly thirty beautiful year olds to choose from. The plants will be shipped “in bud, ready to explode in color” by the end of the month. PW points out that “the flowering time depends on your weather conditions and accelerates as the temperatures cool down.” Information and orders at https://bit.ly/3jgMtns (Proven Winner plants have proven themselves in trials all over the world as easy to grow and care for, healthy and vigorous, long-flowering, bright and colorful.)
One of my favorite events at Longwood Gardens is the annual Chrysanthemum Festival. This year’s festival runs from October 16 to November 14 and is free with regular admission. Information at https://longwoodgardens.org/events-performances/events/chrysanthemum-festival
Note: In previous columns this month, I mentioned planting swamp milkweed (Ascelpias incarnata) and butterflyweed (Ascelpias tuberosa) to attract and support monarch butterflies. I forgot to mention the common milkweed (Ascelpias syriaca). If you are serious about attracting monarchs, this is a great variety of milkweed to grow. It’s hardy, spreads out in clumps, and grows from three to five feet tall (sometimes taller). Thanks also to everyone who wrote to tell me about your own Monarch adventures. So encouraging and inspiring!
Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener and lives in Kimberton. Email directly to [email protected] or email to PO Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook under Chester County Roots. Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon along with her accompanying field journal Explore Outdoors.