Perennials with Late Season Interest

Perennials with Late Season Interest

Part of Ep. 1806 The End of the Season is Just the Beginning

The days may be getting shorter but the growing season is far from over. Host Shelley Ryan travels to Rotary Gardens in Janesville to look at perennials and annuals that do not even reach their peak until fall.

Premiere date: Aug 25, 2010

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
Sometimes it's difficult during the height of the growing season to think ahead to the end of the growing season, but that's exactly what we're going to do today. I'm at Rotary Gardens in Janesville with the director of horticulture, Mark Dwyer. And believe it or not, it's early October and we're standing in front of a gorgeous bed, still full bloom. And that's what we're going to talk about, Mark is how to keep the gardens looking beautiful even in October.

Mark Dwyer:
Well, it's a good point, Shelley because I think a lot of people give up gardening in September.

Shelley Ryan:
Yep, we're done.

Mark Dwyer:
There's no reason not to have great color and texture through the growing season.

Shelley Ryan:
Let's start with what you've got here because what you've done is, you've got a blend of annuals and perennials to keep it pretty.

Mark Dwyer:
Well, with frost looming, these New Guinea impatiens here won't look like much in a couple weeks but why not enjoy them all the way to that hard frost? This is the time of year we also try to segue into a lot of perennials for late-season interest, whether it's foliage or flower. Those can be contributors in the garden all the way well into October until we get that real hard frost.

Shelley Ryan:
Things that are going to carry us on long after the annuals have given up the ghost. Well, let's start with some of the variegation you've got back there.

Mark Dwyer:
What you've noted there, Shelley is a group of Lamium or Dead Nettle which is a wonderful, very durable perennial. You can grow this in sun, part-sun, or shade. Takes a wide range of soil types and you see the wonderful variegated foliage. What it also has is just blooms throughout the entire season.

Shelley Ryan:
I've seen it bloom in the spring I've seen it bloom in late, late fall. I've seen it bloom with leaves from my maple tree on it as the leaves are falling.

Mark Dwyer:
Right, it's a very durable ground cover. The issues that I would keep in mind, now there are many varieties. There's gold-leaf versions and different types. In more organic soils, like we have here at the gardens we have a lot of re-seeding, so we see babies and we have to deal with that.

Shelley Ryan:
It can get very carried away, it can be very aggressive. I have it in very poor soil, and that seems to be the trick. It seems to behave if you put it in very poor soil. So maybe that's a good tip.

Mark Dwyer:
Good option, yes.

Shelley Ryan:
And then the beauty next to it, I'm not familiar with that. It looks like an orchid. What is that?

Mark Dwyer:
The blooms on that plant, now, this is called Tricyrtis or Toad Lily, and this is actually just starting to bloom. This is a late September, early October bloomer. So when they talk about segueing blooms through the season, this is one that will bring up the rear of the season and has beautiful blooms that you alluded to.

Shelley Ryan:
They look like orchids with all those speckles on them. They're so delicate.

Mark Dwyer:
And that's a great variety called "Miyazaki" and for us it's been the most hardy Tricyrtis. There are many different species and varieties out there some with golden leaves, some with variegated leaves, which do offer a little interest, but there's a hardiness issue there. I feel this is the hardiest for a good portion of Wisconsin at least up to central Wisconsin.

Shelley Ryan:
So beyond that it's not going to...

Mark Dwyer:
It would be touchy, so I would be concerned with growing it further north. This is very poor soil and essentially dry shade. And it's doing very well and it's formed a nice arcing clump. To have blooms at peak in October is fairly rare.

Shelley Ryan:
What else can you pick? In fact, do you have any other suggestions?

Mark Dwyer:
Well, this time of year we're noting and getting a lot of comments here about, number one, our Colchicum. These are what are termed "Autumn Crocus." It's important first of all to differentiate the fact that Autumn Crocus are actually not true crocus. They're in the lily family, while crocus is the iris family. It's important to mention.

Shelley Ryan:
It's confusing, either way. But it is a bulb?

Mark Dwyer:
It is a bulb that's usually planted in August. This isn't a fall-planted bulb because it blooms in September. It's very similar to Resurrection lilies in that it sends out its foliage in spring, and that foliage then goes dormant and you wait for the blooms to pop up in September.

Shelley Ryan:
There's nothing else, just a beautiful flower.

Mark Dwyer:
Right, no leaves, just flowers emerging in a fist-sized bulb you'd want to plant at least 8 inches down.

Shelley Ryan:
We're very deep when we're planting it in August.

Mark Dwyer:
And of course, you want a sunny or partly sunny location with very good drainage. But each of those large bulbs will send up a cluster.

Shelley Ryan:
And they're just beautiful then in the later months, too.

Mark Dwyer:
They're very similar to Tricyrtis in their hardiness. Southern Wisconsin would be your best bet. Central Wisconsin, it gets a little touchier.

Shelley Ryan:
These are poisonous?

Mark Dwyer:
They are. The bulbs are poisonous, and the only merit to that is deer and other rodents stay away, but people should be aware that they are poisonous.

Shelley Ryan:
Kids and pets, things like that, too. And something late-season for shade?

Mark Dwyer:
We've got a great perennial here at the gardens that if we were talking about May, June, July, August, etc., I would recommend this perennial, because it blooms literally from May all the way to October.

Shelley Ryan:
How many perennials do that?

Mark Dwyer:
This is one of the only ones I could even name. It's called Corydallis lutea, or Yellow Fumitory. It's very dainty. It has bluish, very delicate foliage, like a columbine, and it's covered with yellow blossoms from start to finish all the way till hard frost.

Shelley Ryan:
And like you said it looks so delicate, it's hard to believe it's just going to hang in there for the entire growing season.

Mark Dwyer:
It's a wonderful perennial and very hardy. It does re-seed, but we like that. We let it re-seed through the gaps in our shade garden and it creates a wonderful tapestry of color.

Shelley Ryan:
And again, hardiness throughout Wisconsin?

Mark Dwyer:
Again, I'll go with central Wisconsin and then sheltered spots further north.

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, tuck it into a corner out of the wind the further north you get. Okay, now, it being October, frost is imminent. The annuals turn black, a lot of things are gone. What takes us through then to winter?

Mark Dwyer:
Well, winter, when we talk about interest in the garden, and I believe all gardens should be 12 months of interest. As we segue into November and the winter months ornamental grasses can come to the forefront. In the distance here, we have one of the Miscanthuses. This is a variegated version of Maiden Grass. And the nice thing about it is, it's a contributor through the entire year, which is important.

Shelley Ryan:
Vertical interest, beautiful variegation. Right now it's beautiful.

Mark Dwyer:
And grasses should never be planted just for the winter interest. They're contributing now, and this grass will contribute all the way through the winter. And other interesting things in winter are bark. Ornamental bark and berries, but of course the winter garden has less color but shouldn't be less interesting.

Shelley Ryan:
So we have to just start planning ahead, plant the Colchicums in August, and keep thinking. There's something to look at all the time. Great ideas, thank you, Mark.

Mark Dwyer:
You’re welcome

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