Autumn All-Stars – Part 1

PicMonkey Collage autumn

September is one of the hardest months to have beautiful fall bloomers as it is usually bone dry, and your spring and summer bloomers have peaked and shriveled up and are only a memory.  This time of year I look for the big bloomers that were putting on lots of green growth all summer, things that you didn’t notice in May, June, and July, but now have come into their own.


One all-star is Nictotiana sylvestris, which carries its stately tiered white bloom for weeks in the fall.

Nictotiana sylvestris is a reseeder in my garden, coming up every year without any effort on my part
Nictotiana sylvestris is a reseeder in my garden, coming up every year without any effort on my part

Nicotiana sylvestris is a stalwart performer that I can always count on, and I do nothing to make it happen! It reseeds every year in different unexpected places, and I am glad it does that because not only is it not invasive, it comes up in great locations. I notice a rosette of the sticky, gummy leaves in mid-summer, and let it do its thing. As it slowly adds girth to the rosette, the flower suddenly shoots up with a tall stalk topped with long-stalked tubular white flowers that have a heavy scent at night.  This whole plant shines at night and will bloom for weeks on end.

My scarecrow surrounded by Nictotiana which reseeded
My scarecrow surrounded by Nictotiana which reseeded

 Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’

Solidago 'Fireworks'
Solidago ‘Fireworks’

Solidago or Goldenrod is not well-respected in the US, probably because you see it everywhere on the side of the road.  A native wildflower that is vigorous and provides a much-needed pollen source in the late summer and fall, the blooms resembles the lacy patterns of fireworks. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is a phrase that comes to mind when I think of this plant.  The English recognize a good plant and admire it greatly, and plant it extensively in their gardens for the late summer color. A butterfly and bee magnet, it is invaluable as a food source for pollinators. The cultivar ‘Fireworks’ is my favorite as it intertwines with other plants for a color show.

Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’

Agastache 'Blue Fortune'
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’

Anise Hyssop or Agastache is my absolute favorite for fall blooms. The whole plant is impregnated with a pungent licorice odor and deer give it a wide berth because of that attribute. The flowers start to bloom in July and just keep on coming for weeks on end.  You never see the flowers without hordes of pollinators working the spikes. Agastache comes in blue, pink and peach colors.

Agastache Tutti Frutti surrounds a dahlia
Agastache Tutti Frutti surrounds a dahlia



Rudbeckia hirta with green centers
Rudbeckia hirta with green centers
Rudbeckia hirta, Gloriosa Daisy
Rudbeckia hirta, Gloriosa Daisy

No fall garden would be complete without Rudbeckias, or Black Eyed Susans, also known as Gloriosa Daisies. But I like the unusual ones, like Rudbeckia hirta, which has a huge (7 inches across) flower and is neon yellow, and is treated as an annual here in zone 6b. My other favorite is Rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers’, which is a solid perennial here and is notable for its narrow petalled flowers with a ‘spoon’ topping off the ends.

‘Henry Eilers’ Rudbeckia
'Henry Eilers' Rudbeckia with pods for Blackberry Lily, which will open and display ebony black seeds
‘Henry Eilers’ Rudbeckia with pods for Blackberry Lily, which will open and display ebony black seeds

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