MAR, 2011: Story by Jacqueline Zilliox and Photography by Devon Sinclaire
Fall is the best time to plant anything except annuals. Cooler air temperatures allow water to soak into the ground for a longer period of time. Since the soil is still warm, plants will quickly put out new roots that don’t have to contend with the stress of drought and heat. These are ideal conditions for establishing a healthy green addition to your garden. Plant as late as Halloween for optimum results.
“Bulbs are the first things that spring to everyone’s mind in the fall,” says Bobby Wentworth of Wentworth’s Nursery with sites throughout Southern Maryland. “But for double use of your space, we recommend you plant pansies over your bulbs.”
Pansies are a bi-annual that bloom from September to June. In really cold temperatures, they go dormant and then freshen up again when temperatures rise steadily.
Maggie Wiles of Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian says, “Usually by fall your planted containers are failing because of the heat. We recommend for fresh color that you add fall loving annuals such as mums, kale, pansies, coleus, or lantana.”
Planting in the fall also means less work for the gardener. The growth cycle begins to go dormant, sap is slowing, watering is not as important, and there is no growth to maintain.
Wiles adds, “Most people go out in the spring and buy what’s blooming at that time. For instance, if you buy an ornamental cherry tree, when you transplant it to your garden the plant goes into shock and will quickly lose its bloom, leaving you to wait a whole year to enjoy the bloom again. If you plant in the fall you’ve given it time to get established and produce a beautiful bloom in its proper season.”
Fall color is usually in the foliage, which makes fall a good time to shop for fall bloomers. Consider japonica, asters, mums, ornamental grasses, sedum, or heuchera as colorful fall additions.