Perennials for fall
Fall brings a new sort of energy to a garden. As the hot summer days give way to cooler temperatures, the plants don their colourful foliage, fruit forms and flowering tapers off. But there’s still lots of life left! A well-planned garden can offer continued delights right up until the first snowfall.
When designing your borders and choosing your plants, you can plan for fall interest by paying special attention to foliage colour, a selection of late-blooming plants and ones that form berries, and grasses with a variety of textures. Perennial combinations can put on a lovely display even in October and November.
Most perennials have a fairly short flowering period (which can be limited to about ten days). However, various species and cultivars available can bloom for four to six weeks, some of them even up to three months. Some perennials will also flower longer if deadheaded regularly.
In addition, hybridization has made it possible to create sterile plants that produce few if any seeds – this allows the plants to put more energy into blooming, for a longer period. Most of these perennials flower from mid-summer to fall. By choosing them carefully, gardeners can create borders that continue to evolve, with a succession of blooms over the season.
Flowers for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds
Winged visitors are fond of quiet, sunny, pesticide-free gardens with shelter from the wind and a damp corner where they can find water and mineral salts. Many perennials native to North America are attractive to various species of butterflies, while others are especially popular with hummingbirds.
Butterflies are drawn to fragrant flowers, often yellow or purple ones. They drink the nectar with their long “tongues,” which function much like straws. Single-flowering perennials usually produce larger amounts of nectar, which is also more easily accessible than in double-flowering hybrids. Other plants, mixed in amongst nectar-bearing species, provide shelter and food for caterpillars.
Hummingbirds have little interest in fragrant plants. Instead, they are attracted to tubular red or orange flowers that stand out clearly against a dark backdrop.
Perennials for the birds
One of the flowerbeds features a mix of perennials that are productive at different times of the year. From early summer to fall, therefore, bird populations can find a diversity of seeds and fruit to get their beaks on. In addition, at season’s end, seed heads are left on plants so that this food source is available over the winter.
The arrangement also contains a number of plants with nectar-producing flowers attractive to insects that certain birds feed on.
In the gentlest breeze, grasses that we call ornamental begin to stir and produce a soothing rustle that helps bring the garden to life. Once avoided by gardeners searching for colorful flowers, they’ve become a key element in modern landscaped areas. Relatively resistant to pests and diseases, and not very demanding in terms of growing conditions, they can be central to low-maintenance arrangements.
The Perennial Garden devotes two beds to species of ornamental grasses. These summer plants reach their peak in late summer. And the foliage on some of them is highly decorative in the fall.
Perennials for their texture
In this flowerbed, the plays of plant textures join forces with shape and color combinations.
The visual texture of the plants, highly graphic, can create effects of either contrast or harmony. Harmonies are achieved by combining similar textures, and contrasts by bringing together different ones. For example, the slender foliage of the miscanthus contrasts elegantly with the stonecrop’s much thicker leaves.
A Perennial Garden flowerbed displays plants that tolerate dry soil. They therefore don’t need to be watered during the dry periods that occur over the summer. Moreover, they can endure waterlogged soil when the snow melts, as long as that soil is well drained.
This type of plant can brighten up arrangements that don’t require much water in sunny locations. Certain species presented in this bed, like Limonium latifolium, Salvia pratensis and Eryngium yuccifolium, could be suitable for sandy soils, which drain quickly.
At one time in our gardens, ornamental plants were grown alongside medicinal plants, herbs and berries. This flowerbed of the Perennial Garden presents various perennial species, a few annuals, and some shrubs that were available in Quebec before 1920. Some of these species date back to the days of New France.
Heritage plants are increasingly popular today – people use them to add a special cachet to old properties or simply as a way of connecting with the past. While some of these plants are no longer used by gardeners, many species and cultivars are commercially available and can add a historical touch to a home garden. The perennials of this flowerbed are tested performers: they are not invasive and in many cases are more disease-resistant than their more modern descendants.