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Late summer early fall notes

Asters in Margaret’s garden. Special to the Pioneer. 1 / 3
Mammoth Mum in Margaret Cheney’s garden. Special to the Pioneer. 2 / 3
Cart with mums and Marigolds in background on Morrison St. Special to the Pioneer. 3 / 3

As I write this, it is the last week of September and gardens around town are still full of colorful flowers.

I don't know how other gardeners feel, but I am almost ready for a good frost. I am tired of watering containers, grooming plants and weeding even though it is important to get rid of weeds at this time of year. Otherwise, their many seeds will be pushed into the soil with winter snow and be off to a good start next spring.

Several plants will survive the first frosts and cooler weather perks up some annuals such as Pansies and Alyssum. My Petunias, especially 'Bubblegum' and Raspberry Splash' are still valiantly forming new blossoms, but they are ragged looking up close and I will soon have to pitch them. Cosmos, Castor Bean, Verbena, Marigolds and Zinnias are doing well, but will not survive a freeze. Coleus will be the first to go, so take some cuttings of your favorites and pot them up. They root in water in less than a week. Geraniums and Blue Salvia can handle quite a bit of frost. Ornamental Kale and Cabbage could last until thanksgiving.

One perennial that begins blooming in August and continues until frost is tall garden Phlox. I kept deadheading my old fashioned variety and it is in full bloom this week. The more modern varieties have a few blooms. Blue and White 'Clips' (Campanula carpatica) began blooming in early summer and continues to have flowers. Some Hosta varieties still have pretty blooms. My Easter Lily is blooming now!

Asters and mums should survive the early frosts along with tall sedums that are so colorful at this time of year. I visited Margaret Cheney's garden to take pictures of her 'Mammoth' mums. This is a variety that has been doing very well in our area and can mound up to a small shrub size. I saw two at North Dakota State University's wide open trial gardens that were very large, but at the time were not in bloom. You may wish to check them out.

Many of us have been adorning our landscapes with the large mums available at garden outlets in late summer and early fall. I have been unsuccessful in keeping these alive over winter in my unheated garage, even though I have kept spring planted mums in pots there for many years. Some of the fall purchased mums have been forced and many are southern varieties that would usually bloom too late for us. Therefore, I have always considered them to be annuals. However, Margaret has proved me wrong. She bought several 99 cent mums from Lowes last fall and planted them in the ground. Now they are well shaped plants fully budded or in bloom. Maybe it is because of climate warming, but I will plant them next year.

Butterflies have been visiting my Zinnias regularly. Late season nectar plants are especially important for Monarchs in order to refuel for their long migration. Other late flowers that are butterfly favorites are Asters, Verbena bonariensis, Goldenrod, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) and single flowered mums.

Even after frost kills most of our flowers it will still be beautiful for another month with colorful trees and shrubs and lush green lawns.