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What experts plant for late-season colour


September may be half over, but my ornamental garden is still going strong, thanks to late-blooming shrubs and perennials like summersweet, hydrangeas, and Rudbeckia.

However, I’m always on the lookout for plants with autumn interest and turned to some local experts to discover their go-to plants for September and October.

For Alice d’Entremont, the owner of Ouest-Ville Perennials in West Pubnico, hydrangeas light up the lateseason garden. “There are so many options for hydrangeas, each having different qualities,” she says, adding that there are new cultivars and series released each year. “You can’t have just one of course, but if I had to pick I’d choose ‘Limelight’, as it’s perfect in every aspect - colour, height, bloom durability, ease of cultivation, and it’s also the name of a Rush song.”

Even though the growing season is winding down, there are still pollinators about and it’s important to include late blooming shrubs and perennials to provide nectar and pollen. Jill Covill, the owner of Bunchberry Nurseries in Upper Clements turns to Seven-son flower, which forms a large shrub or small tree. “The late creamy white flowers have a lovely fragrance and are a magnet to pollinators,” she says. “Plus the flowers are followed by fuchsia-coloured sepals that make for a long show at the end of the season.” Covill also notes that the Seven-sons flower continues to add interest even in winter with its interesting peeling bark.

Another standout shrub is Fothergilla, a top plant for garden designer Crystal Godfrey, the owner of Secret Gardens by Crystal. “Fothergilla, and in particular ‘Blue Shadows’, is a small shrub that grows about four feet tall covered in bottle-brush white flowers in spring,” adding that in autumn the powdery blue foliage turns every shade of yellow, orange, and red for a fiery display. “It’s great in a woodland garden and, as a bonus, is also deer resistant.”

As for perennials, there are also plenty of options. Jamie Ellison, Horticulture Instructor and co-author of Gardening for Acidic Soils recommends heath aster ‘Snowflurry’. “This is a very hardy, very low-growing, ground-covering aster,” he says. “It produces a profusion of small white flowers with bright yellow centers from the end of September and into October.”

Ellison notes that it’s a fantastic pollinator plant and also not fussy, thriving in average to poor gravelly soils.

Todd Boland, Research Horticulturist at Memorial University of Newfoundland and author of 10 books including Shrubs and Vines

for Atlantic Canada relies on Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’, which he calls ‘an oldie but a goodie’ and a plant currently in full bloom in my backyard.

“It’s very reliable and able to withstand fall winds, which are way too common in my area, but I also appreciate the fact it’s a great pollinator

plant,” he says, noting that it’s attractive to both bees and late summer and autumn butterflies. “Plus, it’s a second-to-none cut flower for late-season arrangements.”

Another advocate of Rudbeckia is Elizabeth Peirce, the author of You Can Too! And Grow Hope. “I’ve always been fond of Rudbeckia (aka

Gloriosa daisy and black or brown-eyed Susan), as it was the flower that bloomed around the time of my grandparents’ wedding anniversary on September 15th,” she says, noting that her grandparents had a huge bed of Rudbeckia in their garden.

Peirce has another suggestion, one that may get you to rethink the word ‘weed’.

Goldenrod is native to eastern Canada and there are also several outstanding cultivars that make excellent garden plants.

“It has a bad reputation as people confuse it with ragweed, a plant that causes hay fever,” she says. “But goldenrod isn’t to blame and I keep a patch of it in my garden for bees and butterflies because it’s a great late-season source of nectar and pollen.”

A few more perennials that top Alice d’Entremont’s late-season list include toad lily, monkshood, veronia, and Nippon daisy.

“The spectacular white daisy-like blooms of Nippon daisy are an unexpected surprise in late September,” she says. “They shout ‘Hey, I’m here!’”

Crystal Godfrey also recommends coral bells, a perennial grown mainly for its showy leaves.

“The flowers are pretty but it’s really the foliage colours that attract the eye with shades like chartreuse, silver, pink, orange, and purple,” says Godfrey who plants them in autumn pots and planters as well as garden beds. “‘Grape Expectations’ and ‘Midnight Rose’ are my favourites — and the deer won’t eat them!”

Niki Jabbour is the author of four best-selling books, including her latest, Growing Under Cover. She is a twotime winner of the American Horticultural Society

Book Award. Find her at and on social media.





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