Late Bloomers

Make sure you’re taking full advantage of fall’s foliage and flowers

By Jim Sollecito

Hot Lips Turtlehead flourishes in moist, partly shady areas. The lush deep green plants crowd out weeds all summer long. Late August their grinning hot lipstick-pink blooms put a smile on the face of everyone who sees them.
Hot Lips Turtlehead flourishes in moist, partly shady areas. The lush deep green plants crowd out weeds all summer long. Late August their grinning hot lipstick-pink blooms put a smile on the face of everyone who sees them.

Fall is definitely my favorite time of year. Autumn’s visual impact is greater than spring: a crayon box of hues everywhere we look. As leaves turn a riotous range of color, perennials and shrubs with late-season flowers have more value, as their backdrop offers so much more beyond the usual green.

Many spring bloomers give us a flash of early color, then far too much maintenance to justify them in our year-round landscape. Now is the time for some selective landscape editing. Use your space wisely. Make sure you’re taking full advantage of fall’s foliage and flowers.

Key feature plants are just now coming into their full flowering potential. And I’m not referring to garden mums, which in CNY honestly perform as annuals. Mums are too much effort for a plant that is in our landscape less than a month and then gone forever. Instead I lean more toward hardy perennials like Hot Lips Turtlehead. These beauties flourish in moist, partly shady areas. The lush deep green plants crowd out weeds all summer long. Late August their grinning hot lipstick-pink blooms put a smile on the face of everyone who sees them. And can’t we all use more smiles?

Of course, hydrangeas are still going strong. Many of summer’s white blooms are blushing pink or red now. Like a double feature movie, there’s more still coming. Newer varieties grow in tidy compact forms with more bountiful blooms, brighter colors. Lower maintenance with superior performance. Win-win!

Perception is everything. For example, it seems people my age appear much older than I think I am. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. So maybe it’s time to update with some improved Syracuse-hardy plants with better features. Don’t be that person who has to make excuses for their disheveled yard. It’s one thing to be a late bloomer. It’s another to just be unkempt.

And it’s amazing how easily plants slide into the ground in the fall, immediately giving us what we all want: instant gratification. Especially this year. If you are even considering some landscape color enhancement, your shopping list should also include anemone, hardy hibiscus, Walker’s Low catmint, Stella D’oro daylilies and, of course, the many ornamental grasses. Clean foliage during the main part of the growing season followed by a bonus of blooms when we least expect them.

Autumn’s flowers and fall foliage are a wonderfully rich combination.

Like people, some plants are late bloomers. And these late bloomers are right on time. At this stage of the game, many of us are showing our finest flowers. Shouldn’t your landscape shine in the same light?

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