Top 5 Performers for the Autumn Garden

/ / Advice

It is hard to write about the fall flowers when the sun is shining and the fans are working overtime.  But this is the time to think about the garden and what will look good when it is time for wearing sweaters.   I depend on perennials such as black-eyed susan, sedum or stonecrop, ferns, asters and the ever popular chrysanthemums to add colour to my garden and containers. 

‘Black-eyed Susan’ or Gloriosa Daisy (Rudbeckia fulgida or Rudbeckia hirta) are bright, showy yellow or orange daisy style flowers with dark centers.  They are easy to grow in full sun and will form large clumps which can be divided every few years when the clumps get too big.   They will grow about 2 ½’ – 3′ high and to keep them blooming longer cut the flowers to enjoy inside.  At the end of the season leave some of the seed heads to be enjoyed by the birds.

‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum or Stonecrop (Sedum spectabile) is a very hardy, easy, low maintenance succulent with fleshy blue green leaves and pink flower clusters that can reach 6" across.   They can reach 1 ½ – 2ft high and form clumps as wide. They are easy to propagate by stem cuttings or even a single leaf.  The leaves die down in winter but if the flower stalks are not cut afterwards they will turn into a maroon brown coloured seed cluster which also looks attractive with a dusting of frost or snow on the top.

Ferns are very easy to grow.  They can be small table top or 4ft high; they can be evergreen or deciduous.  The Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) is one of the few ferns that have seasonal colour and winter interest for either the garden or the container.  The fronds go from pink & yellow in the spring to summer green and the rusty brown with bright red spores in the fall.
Other ferns such as Western Maidenhair (Adiantum aleuticum), Sword (Polystichum munitum) and the Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant) are also evergreen, and all add structure to your fall garden. 

Asters range from 6" alpine to 6′ tall and colours range from white, pink, red, lavender or purple with bright yellow centers.    The tall, vigorous asters grow in clumps which should be divided every year while the shorter ones may only need dividing every two years.  One of the most common asters available is the Aster frikartii which has violet blue single daisy like flower and a bright yellow centre.  They start blooming in the summer and continue into the fall.  Deadheading the plants will keep them flowering longer.

Chrysanthemums are another favourite for the fall garden. They can be used in the garden, a container or as cut flowers.  Colours range from white, yellow, orange, pink, bronze, purple or lavender.   The flower shape can be single or double, spoon or spider, pompom or anemone.  The next time you get a florist’s potted Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum moriflolium) as a gift don’t throw it out when it finishes blooming.  Deadhead the plant and then put into the garden.  When new growth occurs, pinch the tips to make the plant bushier and keep pinching every 4-6 weeks until about end of August.  Flower buds will form and it will burst into bloom.  If you don’t pinch the plants they will start blooming during the summer.

These are just a few favourites for the fall garden.  Most of them are for full sun but some of the ferns can be grown in sun or shade.  They all add colour to the garden when the summer flowers begin to fade and it becomes sweater weather again.

Lynne Chrismas is a Master Gardener and owner of landscape design/maintenance company Mayday Gardens.