Perennials for fall
Fall brings a new sort of energy to a garden. As the hot summer days give way to cooler temperatures, the plants don their colourful foliage, fruit forms and flowering tapers off. But there’s still lots of life left! A well-planned garden can offer continued delights right up until the first snowfall.
As this plot shows, flowers aren’t the only way to brighten up a garden space. When designing your borders, you can plan for fall interest by paying special attention to foliage colour, late-blooming plants and ones that form berries, and grasses with a variety of textures. Perennial combinations can put on a lovely display even in October and November. And why not add a shrub or two with showy fall colours?
Gardeners have long complained that despite perennials’ many attractions, they bloom too briefly. While it is true that most of them have a fairly short flowering period, it would be wrong to assume that all perennials bloom for only a week or two.
Various species and cultivars are available that can bloom for four to six weeks, some of them even up to three months. Some perennials will also flower longer if deadheaded regularly. In addition, hybridization has made it possible to create infertile plants that produce few if any seeds – this allows the plants to put more energy into blooming, for a longer period. Most of these perennials flower from mid-summer to fall. By choosing them carefully, gardeners can create borders that continue to evolve, with a succession of blooms over the season.
Perennials for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds
These winged visitors are fond of quiet, sunny, pesticide-free gardens with shelter from the wind and a damp corner where they can find water and mineral salts. Many perennials native to North America are attractive to various species of butterflies, while others are especially popular with hummingbirds.
Butterflies are drawn to fragrant flowers, often yellow or purple ones. They drink the nectar with their long “tongues,” which function much like straws. Single-flowering perennials usually produce larger amounts of nectar, which is also more easily accessible than in double-flowering hybrids. Other plants, mixed in amongst nectar-bearing species, provide shelter and food for caterpillars.
Hummingbirds have little interest in fragrant plants. Instead, they are attracted to tubular red or orange flowers that stand out clearly against a dark backdrop.
At one time, ornamental plants were grown alongside medicinal plants, herbs and berries. This plot presents various perennial species and a few annuals that were available in Quebec before 1920, along with a number of shrubs that are also part of our horticultural heritage. Some of these species date back to the days of New France.
Heritage plants are increasingly popular today – people use them to add a special cachet to old properties or simply as a way of connecting with the past. While some of these plants are no longer used by gardeners, many species and cultivars are commercially available and can add a historical touch to a home garden. The perennials here are tested performers: they are not invasive and in many cases are more disease-resistant than their ancestors.