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GSU Botanical Gardens by Stephanie Tames

The bright colors of fall

    I used to have fall foliage envy until I realized that “leaf peeping” season for our northern neighbors signaled the end of their gardening year. Along the southeastern coastal plain, our fall foliage display may not be as spectacular (and actually comes later in the season) but fall also brings with it some of the most colorful flowers of the year and another wonderful season of gardening.
    To get the most out of the fall season, pre-planning and pre-planting,  is necessary. The most vivid color at Georgia Southern Botanical Garden now is the fall blooming swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) with its bright yellow/gold flowers and dark centers. These plants can grow from 1 _ to 5 feet tall and are beautiful grouped along a fence where they can stand tall or tumble gracefully. They self-sow, turning a few original plants into a mass of yellow in a few short years. Other fall-blooming plants at the Garden include cardinal guard (Odontonema strictum), with spikes of brilliant red, tubular flowers; goldenrods (Solidago sp.), with tiny yellow flowers; and Joe pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum), with pink to pale purple flowers. Other favorites include aster (Aster spp), narrow leaf blue star (Amsonia hubrechtii), obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’ 
    Grasses provide fall color as well, especially native Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaries) with its ethereal pink/purple feathery spikes, and give gardens interesting texture throughout the year. Try maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis) switch grass (Panicum virgatum), and fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.).
    If you haven’t planned for fall color in your garden, South Georgia’s warm weather and late frosts means you can reinvigorate many of your summer blooming perennials for another season of color. Cut-back salvias to about 18 inches and deadhead lantanta and butterfly bushes (Buddleia spp). Also cut-back zinnias, annual salvias, impatiens, and verbenia, and trim insect-damaged leaves. Clean out spent plants and leaves and freshen your beds with another layer of mulch. Your flowering plants could also use some liquid fertilizer to keep them blooming.
    Fall in the South also means its time to start planting annuals like pansies, snapdragons, and ornamental kale and cabbage. New cultivars give gardeners an almost limitless choice of colors and in the case of ornamental kale and cabbage, leaf textures. As the weather turns colder and your summer annuals and perennials fade, use these annuals to fill in bare spots.
    Now when I hear reports on leaf watching season and begin to see the temperature dropping in the North, I grab my gardening clippers and trowel and head outside to spend glorious hours in my very colorful garden. 
Here are a few suggestions for plants for fall blooms or foliage:
    - Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia spp.);
    - Aster (Aster spp), violent, blue, white and pink ;
    - Cardinal guard (Odontonema strictum);
    - Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum x morifolium), grow as a perennial, many forms including daisy, spoon, spider and “football.” Colors include yellow, red, white, pink, orange and purple. Keep cutting back for continuous blooms;
    - Goldenrods (Solidago sp.);
    - Joe pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum), pale pink to pale purple, tall
Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’), white, pink or rose flower on long stem;
    - Narrow leaf blue star (Amsonia hubrechtii), star shaped blue flower with grass-like leaves;
    - Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), lavender to pink flowers on tall spike;
    - Salvias, perennial (Salvia azurea, Salvia leucantha, Salvia guaranitica, Salvia coccinea, Salvia x hybrida) Salvia azurea’s common name is blue sage; Salvia leucantha’s is Mexican bush sage; and Salvia coccinea’s is Scarlet sage;
    - Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, succulent with dark green leaves; flower heads turn from green to pink to red to deep rusty red by Fall;
    - Sweet autumn clematas (Clematis terniflora);
    - Wild Ageratum (Eupatorium coelestinum), misty blue to purple, small graceful bloom.

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