They’re baaaaaack! The hot temperatures– but you know this already. We did get some good rain last week but the wind’s been blowing and the humidity has been low, too–not a recipe for helping plants retain water.  On the way up the walk today I saw the bright red box elder bug nymphs sunning themselves on the coiled black garden hose I have ready for use tomorrow morning. Box elder bugs are not supposed to be much of a problem in the garden, just a nuisance if they decide to try to come indoors, like a smaller version of stink bugs. My daughter, Princess Gabrielle, will have a problem with this. Given our current temperatures there is still plenty of warm out there for them to keep on sunning. In the meantime, we’ll shore up any cracks, especially around the Princess’ window.

I am falling in love with the garden right now, even hot as it still is. One bonus for the hot and dry conditions is that there are less weeds to pull so I can spend more time admiring than working– a huge plus.

So many times throughout the garden year I say something like, “If you don’t love a plant for its foliage you probably don’t really love it.” Autumn is a time to really love plants for their foliage. It is also why when you make plant purchasing decisions you think about what these plants will do in Autumn. I promise, promise, promise that in doing so, you will also be falling in love with your garden all over again come September.

Now onto some fall favorites. You still have plenty of time to add these to your garden now. If you can’t get to a garden center, at least put them on your wish list for next year so that you’ll have them to enjoy next Autumn–they are well worth it.
1. Branched coneflower. These have been blooming for nearly a month and make an excellent cut flower. I did have to stake a few stands of them and as generous as they are they still spill over the tops of the supports, creating the the bright golden glow in the garden, leading my eye to the
2. Coral bark Maple. This Japanese Maple has very red branches in the winter, adding to the winter interest, but for now, the foliage has started to turn a coppery-yellow;
3. Kastura Tree. If you are lucky enough to have the space, this deer-resistant tree is starting to do its thing right–dropping leaves. When the bright yellow leaves come down, the tree gives a fragrance like a caramel latte. And calorie free! As a mature tree, the bark is very textured. If you want to see a great specimen of this tree, take a trip to Chanticleer Gardens–that’s a place worth seeing anyway and this tree will wow you;
4. Photos above and below of Fall-blooming Anemone. I like the white variety as shown, but the pink one is pretty, too;
5. Bronze Carex. This plant is bronze all season–including in the winter. I have it along the stone path where it compliments the stone and plays well with the evergreens and “Sundown” Echinacea that has decided to re-bloom. It looks great alongside Coleus, too, which is a great annual for spring through to frost. This year I had a Merlot color theme so Coleus worked with that and is happy in sun or shade. The fine foliage of Bronze Carex will look great with foliages that are wide to contrast, another Coleus attribute;
6. Amsonia–the perennial that acts like a shrub. Another plant with fine foliage. This looks great with Itea (Sweetspire) and Aronia (Chokeberry.) If you want to see this in its Autumn glory, go to Scott Arboretum at the Swarthmore College campus;
7. Little Blue Stem Grass. Silvery blue things always look great in the garden; there is something just so fresh and bright about it. The fine foliage of this grass–one of our prettiest natives–will work with the same types of plants that the Bronze Carex does. Little Blue Stem does grow taller, and will then sort of bow in the middle once it gets to a certain height. The bonus of this plant? The Autumn color is this delicious, rosy-peachy-pink, like a glowing ember. A few have re-seeded in my garden and I’m good with that. Breeders have crafted some shorter varieties with a more upright habit, so you might prefer those. Either choice would be a good one.

Notice there are very few plants on my favorite list for Autumn that make a flower. This is not because there are no flowers in the garden right now– there are many still going strong that I’ve mentioned before: Hydrangea, Dahlias, Canna Lilies, Flowering Tobacco and Sedum. The Autumn foliages, textures and color changes work so well with the flowers that are blooming now, and the garden is more dynamic for it all.

As for things to do in the garden: get ready to aerate and re-seed your lawn. I do this every year and it really helps to keep the grass re-juvenated. This summer has not been the best for turf grass, so my lawn areas will certainly need it. As soon as we are past this hot spell, that would be the time. You might have a soil test done to see if you need a lime application as well. Chances are high that you do, given our Delaware Valley soil tends to be on the acidic-side. Be sure to keep fallen leaves off the lawn areas as this is a recipe for turf grass death! Leaves are ok left in plant beds–you can decide the look you want.

Other things for your to-do list: Speaking of weeds, you really do want to manage them to the best of your ability right now Annual weeds, if left to go to seed, will re-appear as plants next year in even bigger volumes–so be sure to stay on it right up until frost. If you have perennials that have quit for the season, maybe earlier than usual for the heat and dry, just go ahead and cut them back; this will spread the work load out for you a bit between now and next spring and go along way to keeping the garden tidy.

More than a Four Letter Word...
A Nice, Cold Beer....