By: Ashton Keefe
Most people imagine spring when it comes to flowers, but fall is a wonderful time to enjoy blooms, too. Follow this flower guide to know what to look for when summer is nearing its close.
You’ve seen these — they’re nicknamed mums! At garden centres, you’ll find these perennials in yellow, orange, white, red and pink-purple, often with pumpkins in fall displays. If you purchase potted mums, remove fading and spent flowers (also known as deadheading) to stimulate new growth and keep the plant compact and bushy.
Tip: When putting away fall décor, transplant mums to your garden or a bigger flowerpot. They’re hardy and will come back in the spring. Once established, they’re also somewhat drought tolerant.
For a super-seasonal display, place a pot of mums in a cleaned-out pumpkin to create a festive fall flowerpot.
Fun Fact: In Asia, where the flower originated, boiling and straining the flowers make chrysanthemum tea — a supposed aid for the common cold.
These perennials are a good garden staple, especially for landscape borders and popular for their beautiful (almost daisy-like) shape and colour.
New England asters — the variety you’ll find at most nurseries — feature masses of small pink to purplish flowers with yellow centres. Left unattended, they’ll grow anywhere from 1/2 to 2 metres tall and are better used as background plants. However, if you pinch them back mid-summer before buds form, they’ll be more compact.
Check your local garden centre for compact and dwarf varieties, but keep in mind that they tend to attract fewer butterflies.
Fun Fact: The bloom is actually a combination of flowers — the centre is a cluster of 300 or so tiny flowers surrounded by much larger colourful petals.
These elegant flowering vines are garden show-offs. Some varieties produce flowers that measure 25.5 centimetres or so in diameter, while others feature masses of smaller (but still impressive) flowers. Colours range from white to pink to dark purple. They thrive best when the roots are shaded and the tops receive sun, plus they’re hardy, disease-resistant survivors.
Plant new vines in the fall to give roots time to get established during the cold dormant months.
Fun Fact: There’s a variety of clematis called Sweet Autumn. It bursts into bloom with small white flowers every fall. It’s also fragrant, which is rare.
These flowers could win an award for being one of the most underrated performers — when everything else is going dormant, heleniums will bloom. Most grow best in rich soil and full sun with regular watering, but they’re surprisingly heat tolerant. Best of all, you can find them in ideal fall colours — burnt orange and coppery red. They make great cuttings for vases.
Browse catalogues or online nurseries if you can’t find heleniums locally.
Fun Fact: Heleniums are part of the daisy family, with many varieties native to North America — over 40 species grow wildly.
Ashton is the owner/executive chef of Ashton Keefe LLC Culinary Lifestyle Services, in New York City and a frequent recipe contributor and tester for O Magazine , Whole Foods Market Cooking and Everyday with Rachael Ray. Find her at her site Ashton Keefe.