When summer is ending and fall comes to our gardens, it’s the time to shine for fall blooming flowers like chrysanthemums, stonecrops, and asters. They do a great job brightening up our balconies, terraces, and doorsteps, as well as flowerbeds. During summer they stay hidden, getting ready for their big moment – and now, before the winter, they burst into color. Around the same time, you can enjoy the warm oranges and yellows of late summer bloomers like orange coneflowers or sneezeweeds. Keep your eyes peeled for a feast of colors!
Like most gardening projects, a pretty flowerbed requires good planning. In short: You should plant spring bloomers in the first row, followed by summer shrubs, and fall bloomers in the last row. That way, you avoid having the fall bloomers cover up the summer shrubs, which can easily happen with quick growers such as Japanese anemones. It also lets the fall bloomers grow at their own pace. Smaller summer shrubs can be left alone in the front of the flowerbed, even after their flowers are gone, giving your flowerbed an interesting and almost enchanted look. The ones that have grown too tall can just be trimmed a little. Take good care while placing the fall bloomers. Divide the final height of each shrub by two to determine the distance between plants. Different varieties of cranesbills and spurges come out in splendid tones of yellow, orange, and red. Funkias contribute a bright yellow, and bergenia leaves can often stay a beautiful warm red until spring. Fall bloomers like cyclamens make for elegant window boxes, and heather is an excellent choice for your planters.
To make sure your flowerbed is a success, you need to prepare the soil. Start by loosening the soil, then add some compost and a little bit of long-term fertilizer. Before planting your fall shrubs, you should remove any weeds and some of the soil from their root balls. It also can’t hurt to loosen up the roots a bit with your fingers. If the root balls are very dry, dip them in water. Your planting holes should be twice the depth and width of the root ball. Dahlia tubers for late summer and early fall should already be planted in spring, whereas autumn crocus bulbs should not be planted before late summer.
Mulching is a good way to ensure the ground doesn’t turn hard or dry out. You don’t need to buy expensive bark mulch – just mix together equal parts of grass and hedge clippings. There should be plenty of both around in fall anyway. Make sure your mulch layer isn’t too thick to avoid rotting and mold growth underneath. Fall is also the perfect season to split shrubs that will bloom in spring, which is a great way to rejuvenate them and get more flowers. Pruning is not necessary. You only need to remove any sick parts of the plant. Everything else should remain, because the faded shrubs provide sustenance and refuge to many insects and birds. Come spring, it will be time to prune. Ornamental grasses are also trimmed in spring. Speaking of grasses, they should not be missing from any flowerbed in fall – they are great at capturing light and even look great covered in dewdrops or hoarfrost. Herbaceous peonies are another case altogether: In October and November, these plants retreat into the ground, and their stems and leaves turn brown. This is the time to cut their stems back to soil level to prevent diseases. After all this work, you are sure to be rewarded with a beautiful sea of flowers in fall.