Do you have garden envy at this time of year? Are your neighbor’s gardens abounding in color while yours has turned a bit blah? If so, don’t despair! Here are 5 easy ways to add late season color to your garden!
1) Use containers to add spot color. Simple containers filled with bright colored, long-blooming annuals like marigolds, impatiens, petunias, geraniums, angelonia, osteospermum, snapdragons and Tropicanna canna can be moved around the garden throughout the summer and early fall to fill in spots that lack color during various bloom stages. For shady areas, coleus is available in a wide variety of colors. Some roses work well in containers too and can also be moved around the garden as needed.
2) Create brightly colored garden accents. If you don’t have any plant-filled containers on hand, use colorful garden accents instead. With the wide array of spray paints available, repurposing old items is an easy and inexpensive way to do this.
For example, old bowling balls spray painted bright cobalt blue can add whimsy and color. Old wheelbarrows, wagons, chairs, bottles or even garden tools can be painted and placed around the garden for extra color. And don’t forget ornamental birdhouses! They’re easy to find at any craft store.
3) Deadhead early and often to extend bloom time. Deadheading (cutting off the spent blossoms) is another way to keep your perennials and annuals blooming longer into the season.
Some plants like Volcano phlox, hardy geraniums, salvias, sweet peas, yarrow, coneflowers, centaurea and coreopsis will provide 2nd bloom cycles if they’re deadheaded as soon as their first blooms fade. Keeping annuals deadheaded can also increase their bloom time. You can use your fingers or pruners to deadhead most plants but bushy plants like tickseed Coreopsis are easier to cut back with hedge sheers. Click here for a short how-to video on deadheading.
4) Plan ahead and add late-flowering plants to your gardens. Start by observing what’s still blooming in your neighborhood in late summer. You may even want to do a plant swap with your friends and neighbors!
Long and late-flowering perennials like Volcano phlox, Black-Eyed Susan, sedum Autumn Joy, Joe Pye Weed, hardy mums, salvia, asters, Flower Carpet roses, obedient plant (Physostegia) and coneflowers are all easy to grow and bloom well into the early fall.
Annuals that bloom late into the fall include those mentioned in #1 above, plus zinnias (both the larger cut-and-come again varieties and the smaller Profusion and Zahara varieties), cosmos, larkspur, calendula, morning glories, status, 4 o’clocks, statice, and cleome.
And don’t forget foliage color as an option. Shrubs like Burning Bush (euonymus alata), Itea, and Fringetrees (Chionanthus), dogwoods, chokeberry, and viburnums have foliage that turns lovely colors in late summer and early fall.
5) Create a staggered-bloom cycle. Pinching back (cutting back) some of your late bloomers in the spring will not only increase the number of their flowering branches, but can delay their bloom times a bit. Once they’re about 6-8 inches high we always remove about 1/3 of the plant on some of our Volcano phlox, mums, sedum Autumn Joy, goldenrod and New England asters to move their bloom time back a bit. The result? Late blooms right into September! You can use pruners to do most plants but bushy plants like tickseed Coreopsis are easier to cut back with hedge sheers once most of their blooms are gone.