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Color Your Fall Garden

Now that we are moving from summer into fall, why not fill in some of your bare spots or replace those wilted impatiens with something that loves the fall weather.

Nothing is more exciting than the first truckload of pansies that rolls into the garden center each fall. My friend, Pat, and I simply must have a few of those first pansies. It’s like a signal that favorable weather is returning to our gardens. Pansies are a cool-season annual flower and in Kentucky, if planted in the fall, will often successfully overwinter and return flowering in early spring. All I do is plant them in late September or early October and keep them well-watered, because fall tends to be a dry season. Fertilize them once or twice in the fall and then again about the middle of March, and they grow and flower beautifully from fall to early May.

So many pansy choices

There are many colors to choose from and it’s always hard to decide. The most popular pansy color is yellow, with the second-most popular selection being mixed colors, and third is blue. Pansy flowers are available in solid colors with no “faces,” solid colors with “faces,” and many bi-color varieties. These bi-colored flower varieties are becoming very popular, such as the All America Selection ‘Ultima Morpho,’ but have yet to outsell good old yellow.

Other fall choices

Pansies aren’t the only flower you can plant for annual color in the fall garden. Traditionally garden mums, ornamental kale and cabbage, and ornamental peppers are widely available. This year I hope to be seeing more marigolds and less garden mums. They perform great in cool weather, flower longer than mums, and are tolerant of light frost.

Diascia, or twin spur, looked fabulous this spring but gave up in my garden when the heat really kicked in. One of our greenhouse growers reported that it overwintered successfully last year just like her pansies and looked even better in the spring. Look for it to be available this fall at your favorite garden center. Carnations, believe it or not, which are traditionally difficult to grow in the heat of summer, are now available as annuals for the fall garden. What a great idea and they’re a wonderful cut flower as well.

Fall crocus bulbs

If you’re looking to plant something this fall that will survive the winter and flower again in the spring, it looks like pansies and the new diascia are your best choices. There are not many fall-flowering bulbs to choose from but a few fall-flowering crocus, Crocus speciosus and Crocus kotschyanus, are available. These bulbs are quite fun with the most flowering before the leaves emerge or when the leaves are very small. They look great in a rock garden, along borders, or near a walkway. I find fall-blooming crocus hard to resist.

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