Yes, it’s late summer and it’s hot!
If you’re thinking all the plants in your Elderyarding® garden are looking dreary, dusty, dry and winding down for the season, think again.
Many plants have a spectacular fall season to present to you – and to migrating birds and butterflies. I like to think of it as a second spring – when everything is bursting with life. So August is a grand time to stroll around your garden every few days and notice what’s happening.
Start with the trees.
That grand oak in your back yard that provides glorious shade all summer is starting to plump up its acorns. Can you see them yet? At this point, they may just be fuzzy nubs where the nut caps will be. Or, if it’s been a lush year with plenty of moisture and not too much heat, the acorns could already be visibly green. The ash trees are beginning to spread the wings of their seeds called samaras. And check out the cedar elms. They bloom in the fall with one-fourth inch spiky green blossoms almost hidden in the leafy branches.
Take a look at the evergreen trees, too. Here in central Texas, we have a love/hate relationship with our “cedars,” actually a species of juniper, because of the allergic pollen the male trees produce when they bloom in winter. But the female trees then produce scads of blue berries beloved by cedar waxwings. The flock that visits my yard in January has been known to strip the berries from every nearby tree in two days. At the moment, the berries look like tiny blue seed beads strewn along the spiky branches, and it will be fun to watch them expand.
Time to take a peek at shrubs and perennials
Often favorites once they start blooming, you can extend the season by noticing their gradual development into glorious blooming machines that you and the butterflies can notice from a distance in about 6 weeks. It can be fun to predict correctly when the blooms will open because you’ve been watching closely!
Low shrubs like Caryopteris, common name Bluebeard, lead the show with spikes of fabulous blue bell-shaped blooms. You’ll see the flowering branches start to lengthen and fatten their tips first. Check your abelias and butterfly bushes, too.
I know some folks swear by Knockout™ roses that bloom all summer, but I prefer roses that are comfortable and lazy in July.
With gradually shortening days, you’ll also notice that your roses perk up, especially if you are growing antique roses or EarthKind™ roses. Antique roses will often rebloom in the fall. My Old Blush China climber is putting out new canes now, preparing to offer flowers in November.
And I have to mention Eupatorium coelestinum (hardy ageratum). This perennial ground cover spreads nicely but does like a steady supply of moisture. About the time that the monarch butterflies migrate, this plant provides hundreds of pale blue fluffy blossoms for the butterflies to fight over. It’s not yet doing much to prepare, but I’ll be checking its preparations at the end of August to get in at the start. Another eupatorium in my yard is a shrub about 3 feet tall. Its blooms are big white balls of fluff. These not only attract migrating insects, they have an amazing fragrance that drifts across the entire front yard.
I could go on and on about what’s starting to deliver our fall garden spectacular, but I’ll mention just one more today – chrysanthemums. I’ve been nurturing last season’s plants in self-watering containers through the summer. Those hothouse grown plants have proven far tougher in summer heat than I imagined, and they have definitely begun pushing up fat flower buds. They get a fertilizer treat today as thanks.