As summer begins to yield to fall, we lament the end of summer's blooms but look forward to the seasonal colors of autumn. Leaves start to change color with the falling temperatures and plants that have faltered a bit in the heat of summer regain vitality and vigor. And there are many cool weather plants available for fall planting.
Pansies top the list of cool season plants. Often considered the harbingers of spring, fall-planted pansies are gaining in popularity for the fall garden. They are available in just about any color -- with or without faces.
Use pansies to replace summer worn plants in containers. Or plant them with other cool season annuals in new fall container gardens. Plant pansies in masses in front of perennial borders or just pop them in spots where a little color is needed. Pansies grow best in fall sun or part shade.
Fall crocus, botanically named Colchicum, is a fall-blooming bulb that should be planted in late summer or early fall. Grasslike leaves emerge in spring and then yellow and die back. In September, rosy pink flowers spring up on leafless stems brightening the fall landscape.
Cool weather brings out the best in ornamental cabbages and kale. Large rosettes of grayish green foliage are marked with cream, pink or purple centers that deepen as temperatures drop. Plant them in garden beds, window boxes and containers.
Cabbages and kale are beautiful combined with pansies and garden mums. Plants generally reach 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.
Garden chrysanthemums are the quintessential flowers of autumn. There are hundreds are varieties available in a range of flower types and colors. After deciding on color, consider when you want your mum to be in bloom.
Mums are classified as early-, mid- or late-season flowering, beginning in mid-September and continuing through late October. If you purchase blooming plants in August, they've been forced into bloom and will be done blooming in early to mid September.
Garden mums are beautiful planted alongside fall-flowering perennials like asters and sedum, ornamental grasses, and other cool-season annuals. Replace tired summer annuals in container gardens or create a gorgeous fall container with mums, pansies and gourds or pumpkins.
After you've planted these flowers of fall, rejuvenate existing plants with some routine maintenance. Deadhead spent blooms and continue to water during dry spells. Annuals will reward you with continued flushes of blooms.
Alyssum, lobelia, petunias, dianthus and snapdragons will respond to a shearing in late summer. Prune stems back to 4 to 6 inches and new blooms will appear and continue through fall.
Don't be sad we will soon say goodbye to summer. Plant some pansies, ornamental cabbages and kale, and mums and enjoy the flowers of fall.
• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040, ext. 2, or visit planterspalette.com.