Life

FORTE: September's garden sampler

Theresa Forte

By Theresa Forte, special to Postmedia Network

Violet pansies, pink anemones, chartreuse coral bells, orange cosmos, white daisies and turquoise porcelain berries make a cheerful splash colour in the fall garden. (heresa M. Forte/Special to Postmedia Network)

Violet pansies, pink anemones, chartreuse coral bells, orange cosmos, white daisies and turquoise porcelain berries make a cheerful splash colour in the fall garden. (heresa M. Forte/Special to Postmedia Network)

It’s a quiet September afternoon, the sun is peeking in and out of the clouds, there’s a gentle breeze rustling the trees — autumn is in the air.

A rainbow of glass bottles lines the railing of our deck (my impromptu studio), ready to host garden plants in co-ordinating colours. Violet pansies, pink anemones, chartreuse coral bells, orange cosmos, white daisies and turquoise porcelain berries make a cheerful splash of fall colour.

Let’s take a closer look and see how these plants could improve your garden palette.

Variegated Porcelain Vine (Ampelopsis brevipendunculata ‘Elegans’) is a graceful climbing vine for the home garden, with serrated green leaves, splashed with soft green and white.

Insignificant, creamy flowers appear in June, but they are not the main attraction. The real show begins when clusters of shiny pale blue, purple and turquoise berries decorate the vine. On closer inspection, each berry is speckled with navy blue, giving them a porcelain-like finish.

Porcelain vine needs a trellis or fence to climb on. I have trained a pair of vines up the support poles for the pergola over our deck. The young tendrils look best if they are encouraged to climb up the pole; I just tie lengths of garden twine at regular intervals up the length of the pole and then encourage the tendrils to grasp on to the support. A weekly check, tucking in a stray stem here and another there, is enough to keep the plant in line. Growth slows once the plants set flower and no further tying is required unless one of the strings breaks free in a storm.

Prune back the stems every second or third year to about 30 centimetres tall to encourage a fresh crop of colourful foliage and a dense habit. Variegated Porcelain Vine is a vigorous grower, reaching three to seven metres tall, and is very self sufficient once established. It prefers well drained soil and afternoon shade. The vines on our pergola came through this summer’s hot, dry weather without a problem.

Porcelain vine will self-seed, and seedlings turn up here and there around our Niagara garden. I suspect the local birds help spread the seed around. The distinctive foliage is easy to spot in the spring and root out if necessary, so far they have not been a problem.

Cosmos ‘Bright Lights’ features semi-double 5-7 cm blooms in a sunny mix of yellow, tangerine and orange. Lacy foliage and vibrant flowers on long, wiry stems give an airy touch to the garden from midsummer to frost. This variety is compact (about 30 cm tall) and makes a pretty edging for a border, or tuck them in a container. They make charming cut flowers.

Cosmos tolerates a wide range of soil types, including poor soil. Plants need even moisture to get started, they are drought tolerant once established. Regularly fed and watered plants produce the most abundant flowers.

Deadheading will help to lengthen the bloom season. Cosmos are annuals, but they self-sow in my Niagara garden. Seedlings can be transplanted, and make self-sufficient additions to containers. I like to grow them along the front of our vegetable garden for a splash of colour, they are rabbit resistant and are attractive to butterflies.

Grapeleaf Anemone (Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’) is one of the easiest to grow and most hardy of the fall blooming anemones. Happily situated, it can be a vigorous spreader that makes a good display in a woodland garden.

This perennial forms a low mound of grape-like green leaves; taller stems of soft-pink cup-shaped flowers appear as summer winds down. The plants can be divided in the spring if required. Grapeleaf anemone needs room to spread, it will reach 90 to 120 cm tall and spread 60 to 90 cm. It prefers a moist site and clay soil, in full sun or part shade.

In my garden, this anemone has full afternoon shade and clay soil that has been amended with compost and the bed is well mulched. On hot summer days, it wilts in the hot sun, and then revives in the when the shade arrives. I think it would do better if the site were not so dry because of large trees. It perks up nicely when the fall weather brings more frequent rain. It is deer and rabbit resistant.

Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens ‘White Butterfly’) is a simple plant, with a complicated name Latin name — think I’ll just stick to Marguerite daisy. I’ve been growing sample ‘White Butterfly’ Marguerite Daisies from Proven Winners as a trial this year, and have enjoyed a steady supply of fresh white daisies from the day they were planted. September is winding down, and they are still in full flower.

The flowers are small, but there is an endless supply on a nicely rounded plant (45 cm tall x 30 cm wide). They were quite happy enjoying full sun in my circle garden and didn’t show any signs of stress in the hot, dry weather. I do water regularly and feed my annuals at least once a month. This daisy would look pretty in the front of a large planter, or tuck it in the border wherever you would like a splash of fresh white daisies.

When planning my spring containers, I included cheerful lime green coral bells (Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’) for a base of great foliage. Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’ has been a treat to grow. Handsome, lime-green, heavily ruffled leaves form a compact, rounded mound. Tan coloured flowers appeared in the late spring; I snipped them off because the foliage is the star here. Planted in large containers with an eastern exposure, they enjoyed afternoon shade during the heat of the day.

The plants have filled in over the summer, reaching 30 cm tall and about the same spread. They have not let me down all season, looking fresh and offering new leaves, while many of their companion plants faded during our hot, dry summer. I’ve killed more coral bells, by planting them in our heavy clay soil, than I would care to admit. Container-grown Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’ has won a place in my heart.

Theresa Forte is a local garden writer, photographer and speaker. You can reach her by calling 905-351-7540 or by e-mail at theresa_forte@sympatico.ca.