Color for Cooler Days

    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.
    • Clean up dead foliage on perennials like peonies, daylilies and balloon flower and cut back dead flower stems on Echinacea, blanket flower and penstemon.
    • Seed slopes with annual ryegrass to prevent erosion and improve the soil for later plantings.
    • Clean up water lilies by cutting off dead leaves. Leave hardy lilies in the pond and sink them down to the bottom of the pond for the winter.
    • Daffodils announce the arrival of spring if you plant them now. Choose from a variety of colors and bi-colors.

Color for Cooler Days

As the petunias and marigolds wind down, and chilly nights come on, it’s time to clean up the flower beds and plant some new flowers for the cooler months. Snapdragons, pansies, violas, calendulas, stock and primroses are the best choices to keep your garden and containers colorful.

Snapdragons come in a variety of sizes and colors. They range from 8-inch tall ‘Floral Carpets’ to 36-inch tall ‘Rockets.’ The color range spans all the pinks, reds and lavenders as well as yellow and white. Although they are sold as annuals, in our climate they will winter over and rebloom profusely in early spring. They make wonderful cut flowers. When squeezed side to side, the snapdragon flower opens wide, delighting children of all ages.

For mass plantings, plant medium and dwarf varieties 6 to 8 inches apart and tall types a foot apart. Give them a sunny location with good garden soil that is well-drained. Snaps look very nice when interplanted with delphiniums, irises and daylilies.

Pansy flowers can be up to three inches across and come in a wide variety of colors: violet, purple, blue, pink, red, orange, yellow, white and many new bicolors. Pansies have become more popular as gardeners have seen how well they preform through wet, wintery weather. Pansies are unaffected by a covering of snow, and pop right back when the snow melts.

They are good companions for spring-flowering bulbs. By choosing colors that compliment the bulbs you can create some very pretty living bouquets. Blooming over a longer season than the bulbs, they will fill in and provide color as the bulbs are finishing their cycle.

Violas, which are the smaller cousins of pansies, also have some interesting new hybrids. The Sorbet series includes ‘Peach Melba’, with peach and yellow petals tipped with red, ‘Antique Shades’ come in red-purple shades each with pale edges. The old-fashioned ‘Johnny-Jump-Ups’ and purple ‘King Henry’ violas are cheerful all winter. Violas are dense and neat, spreading to 12 inches across.

Calendulas are very easy to grow. They are sometimes called winter marigold, though they are not marigolds at all. They grow in the sun and have large, fluffy daisy flowers. ‘Pacific Beauty’ mix has 2-3″ blooms, in shades of orange, cream and yellow on 1-2 feet tall plants. ‘Touch of Red’ are a blend of red, yellow and orange, each petal with a red tip growing to 14 inches tall. Calendulas like cool weather and will provide lots of color between now and next summer.

Stock is well-known for its wonderful fragrance. Flowers come in lovely rich colors of pink, purple, rose and white. Most flowers are double and, set against their gray-green foliage, they are beautiful. They make wonderful cut flowers, mixing nicely with snaps to have a riot of color as well as fragrance.

English primroses are the best bedding plants for shady areas in the winter. Their flowers sit in a cluster directly in the center of the plant, some on central flower stalks and some with lower flowers on individual stems. The color range is incredible, covering red, blue, yellow and all shades in between. The new ‘Primlet’ mix has clusters of double flowers that look like rosebuds.

If primroses are started early enough they will bloom in the fall. All plants will bloom from February through April, putting on a terrific show of color. If planted in a spot that receives shade in the summer, they will become well-established and be bigger and more beautiful next winter.

Perk up your garden with cheerful fall bloomers.

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