The “fall of the year,” they call it. Leaves fall, many flowering plants fall, skies fall and daylight falls. I prefer the nomenclature “autumn,” which has a more pleasant resonance.
However, fall, or autumn, brings to many people the danger of slipping from nostalgia into depression, some moderate, and some clinical, which can kill quicker than a heart attack. Be that as it may, our gardens can cope better than we can at times.
Buck yourself up and check out some of the delectable flowers still on our tables, even at this late date. Here I am referring not to just late bloomers, but really late, late bloomers. Even in mid-October there is still a good measure of flowering yet to be enjoyed and help you stay out of the fall doldrums.
Of course, that includes chrysanthemums, and I mean the really late ones that sometimes keep going until Thanksgiving. They are mostly the Korean kinds that need to be pinched back or sheared a couple of times in summer to keep them from too much sprawling. Mostly daisy types, they come in all the traditional mum colors, including white, yellow, red, bronze, pink and shades in between. Our mixed border is rife with them and their foliage has paid rent all season right up until now, when they are just budding. On top of that, they are somewhat fragrant, and bees and butterflies work them as long as hard frost is absent.
They will take light frosts with aplomb, and there’s nothing better to grace your Thanksgiving table than arrangements of mums and their partners in fall bloom, asters.
And so to asters. Most asters are natives or derivatives of natives. In fact, there are a number of native asters that will take to suburbanization where, I must add, they can become a little too rambunctious for polite company, with roots that wander far and wide over a couple of seasons.
Don’t let that deter you, however, from enjoying those that are more subdued in their desire to travel. Most of the commercial varieties are pretty tame, and, in fact, are sometimes too tame and apt to not be aggressive enough to compete with more vigorous neighbors. That being said, a few, even, of the commercial ones are pretty aggressive sometimes.
If we go wandering into the wild this time of year, the first things that we notice in waste places and fields are, of course, the goldenrods. Here is where more than a modicum of warning is due. Most goldenrods are vicious at the root to a massive degree. Why else would they lord over nearly everything on the fall scene but the strongest young trees and heavy grasses? If you are tempted to move some to your own beds and borders, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There are a few commercial varieties of goldenrod that have been subdued for cultivation. The most common is ‘Fireworks,’ that reaches to some three feet and is clump forming and with a low propensity to become a problem. I once had it in our longest border and somehow lost it. I pine for it again. Goldenrod has a flower structure that the daisy-like asters and mums lack. The three of them make a fine combination, with the asters providing the blue and purple shades not often found in the two others.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — A few weeks ago I commented on fall flowering azaleas. I related how my efforts with them were practically nil, with one of mine only having a few flowers and all the others nil, nada. The flak following my effort was heavy, to say the least.
The first fusillade was from a fellow church person who proved to me, via her upscale cellphone, that the late azalea flowering was no fallacy. She displayed a picture taken lately showing a pinky-red azalea in full flower in her garden, with perhaps 100 blooms extant at this late date. Then, to add insult to injury, I was visiting the garden of Paul and Peggy Veazey (well, Peggy’s) out toward Como and there, in blazing plenty, were at least 15 azaleas in full flower, this just last week. My bad.
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.