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South Central Gardening: The Flowers and Grasses of Fall

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Enjoy these musings on the activity in the garden as summer wanes and fall sets in.

Burgundy Amaranth

After a long, hot summer maybe you’re thrilled fall is here, with cooler temperatures. Or you might be sad at the decreasing sunlight. It may almost seem like a time of rest. But if we go out and peer closely, furious activity still abounds, as hummingbirds and tiny insects flit about, gathering food.

I grow three types of goldenrod: Solidago altissima, S.speciosa and S. sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’ (a dwarf type, with horizontal stems). Native asters are now beginning to bloom in waves of purple, pink and pale blue. Traveling butterflies and other creatures enjoy these flowers, like pit stops on their journey. Some even stay and lay eggs upon larval host plants, so I’ll have butterflies to enjoy next summer too.

Willow leaf aster (Aster praealtus, a/k/a Symphyotrichum praealtum) is one of the prettiest native asters. At 6 feet it gives joe-pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) a back-of-the-border companion. Another beautiful tall bloomer is burgundy amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus)—birds love the seeds.

Overdam Grass

I am also thankful for the grasses that adorn my garden. When I see landscapes containing rivers of grass swaying in the breeze, they remind me of how our prairies appeared to our ancestors. In our home gardens we may not have enough room to plant a river of grass, but we can (where they aren’t invasive) treat ornamental grasses as specimen plants. In several choice locations within my beds and borders, cultivars such as Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ and ‘Dallas Blues’; Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hamlin' and Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Overdam' all perform well and return year after year.

No matter how you feel about fall, I hope you’ll get out in your garden and enjoy these days we still have before frost. The light is magical, and so much is going on right under our noses. Shall we go out and see?