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Late bloomers Looking forward to fall

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Shirley Campbell

Already I’m dreading the heat of the summer when no one feels like working in the garden. But, fall will come and its cooler temperatures will bring us new enthusiasm.

I always look forward to seeing these late bloomers putting on their show in the garden.

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii):

A semi-evergreen woody shrub growing three feet tall and wide, and coming in all colors. Actually the flowers start in early spring and last all summer long. These salvias benefit from frequent haircuts after a flush of bloom. The August trim is especially important for good fall blooms. The tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, and the nectar brings butterflies and bees.

Mexican Bush Sage

(S. leucantha): This plant is worth having as a background plant for its lovely lance-shaped, silvery leaves. Flowers emerge on long, draping spires in solid lavender, or lavender and white. To keep the tall plants from becoming too leggy and to encourage more blooms, prune back by half in mid-spring and early summer.

Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida):

Equally at home planted in the herb garden and flower border, the leaves haves a distinct, anise –like scent. The leaves can be used in teas and as a substitute for tarragon in cooking. With its small yellow daisy-like flowers and its two to three foot size, it would look great planted in front of the taller Mexican bush sage for an eye-catching combination of yellow and purple.

Fall Aster (Symphyotricum oblongifolium:)

The two to three foot mounds with one and a half inch lavender flowers with yellow centers are especially nice in the fall border if combined with Mexican Mint Marigold. Requiring good drainage and detesting over fertilizing and over watering, they are a must for water-wise landscaping. Cut back the plants in spring or early summer to maintain a dense growth habit.

Blue Mistflower (Eupatorium coelestinum):

A plant also known as Hardy Ageratum or Boneset is a prolific fall bloomer that puts on a show for four or more weeks and fairly buzzes with the activity of butterflies, bees, and other insects seeking its nectar. Its misty display of blue/purple, fluffy flowers are especially nice planted with Mexican Mint Marigold giving you the pleasing combination of blue/purple with yellow.

Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii):

The name gives you a clue. Brush against it as you walk by and the air will fill with the fragrance of citrus and camphor. This plant makes a three to four foot tall mound with a profusion of single bright yellow blooms about an inch in diameter. The blooms are a great source of nectar for several species of beneficial insects. Give it plenty of room and it may need to be staked. It’s a wise choice for the low water use garden.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata):

Most types of clematis are best left on the pages of the seed catalogs if you garden here in Texas, but this vine is an exception. It sprawls over whatever support you provide. It explodes into a billowy white mass of quarter sized white booms with a knock-your-socks-off fragrance. Remember it likes its face in the sun and its feet in the shade, so plant a low growing shrub or place a container at its feet to shade the roots.

Fall Obedient Plant (Physos-tegia virginiana):

Did you even wonder why it is called obedient plant? The blooms on the stalk can be moved to the side and will remain in that position when you let go. This plant produces snapdragon- shaped flowers of lavender pink blooms with dark lavender purple markings. It willingly takes over a planting bed if given moist soil. It is better kept just moderately moist to curb its enthusiasm, or consider an underground barrier.

Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani):

This relative of garden sunflowers is also willing to roam and should be kept on the dry side to tame its aggression. This sunflower is a perennial that blooms in the fall with many 3 inch yellow blooms spiraling upward along the 4 to 6 ft. tall stalks. To tame it a little bit I cut it back severely in July or August and am gradually moving it out of the flower beds and to the pasture fence.

Sedum (Sedum spectabile):

Sedum has blue-green, roundish foliage, and bears bright pink flowers in round, flat heads in late summer. Established plants can be 18 to 24 inches tall. It’s a butterfly magnet and one of the best plants for a water-wise garden. ‘Autumn Joy’ is easily found in our local nurseries. I have also had good luck with ‘Neon’ and ‘Vera Jameson’ (a low grower more like a groundcover).

All of the above perennials like full sun. Obedient plant, sedum, and blue mistflower can take part sun. Planted now they will need attentive watering for the next few weeks until their roots become well established.

As we wilt through the summer months, think "fall" and plan to add some of these late season performers to your landscape now and extend the color season on into the fall.

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