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Reflecting Pool
Pontederia cordata / Pickerel Weed

Pickerel weed is native to eastern North America and the Caribbean. It has soft blue blooms, resembling hyacinth, punctuated with yellow spots on each petal. A freshwater-aquatic plant, it will thrive in your rain garden or backyard pond, and, much like horsetail plant (Equisetum), it can spread rapidly. With its dense root system, it does an amazing job of controlling erosion by keeping sediment it place. Grow in containers, either out of water or in, if spread is a concern.

The leaves of Pontederiaare shaped like arrowheads and, when young, can be used in salads. Its seeds are also edible, and tastes best when roasted, though waterfowl will eat them raw. Butterflies are big fans of this perennial; dragonflies and damselflies commonly lay their eggs on plant stems near the water’s surface. Fish, reptiles, and other water creatures seek shelter in the clumps of these plants. It is often seen in the same habitats as the pickerel fish, hence the common name.Let’s try it. Imagine a fall without the quintessential ray-flowered, uniform, burnt orange, purple, and yellow mums flanking front doors and creating autumnal porch presentations. It’s almost as difficult to imagine a poinsettia-less Christmas, due partly to tradition and partly to their vibrant, instant pops of color.

The potted mums we see so commonly this time of year is Chrysanthemum x morifolium. Chrysanthemums are hardy or semi-hardy herbaceous perennials in the Asteraceae family, producing blooms in response to cool nights. Mums are particularly popular this time of year, because while most summer annuals and perennials have tired and faded, the sturdy and reliable mums are beginning to bloom. This is how they have gained such popularity as a décor for harvest festivals around the U.S.

There are, however, other perennials besides mums that we usually treat as annuals or nothing more than short-term dining room table ornamentation, which will bring delightful blooms and autumnal color year after year.

If you are looking to expand your harvest display this year, here are my top 5 picks that extend beyond the mum.Robinson Family Water Garden
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ / Panicle Hydrangea

One of the most winter hardy of all hydrangeas, ‘Tardiva’ is very similar to ‘Floribunda’, although the sepals surrounding the base of the blooms are mostly in sets of four and not five. The panicles of showy white flowers become tinged with rose and lavender coloration as they age. The leaves of panicle hydrangeas are handsomely ovate and dark green. There is excellent cut and dried flower potential with this shrub which will grow up to 10 feet tall if conditions are right. Use in a mass hedge or back border for the grandest effect. If larger flowers are desired, prune shrub to 5-10 primary shoots in late winter or early spring. H. paniculatais native to China and Japan.Martin Boxwood GardensReflecting Pool

Euphorbia characias / Mediterranean Spurge

A native to the Mediterranean, you will find this most commonly planted spurge located around the reflecting pool. The foliage is a verdant blue green and lush with healthy, helix-arranged foliage. Needing well drained soils (they dislike heavy clay), euphorbias prefer all the sun they can get and grow to a height of 3 feet in optimal conditions. In the months of May and June, you can see these spurges blooming in chartreuse. The contrast between the robust flower heads and the blue-toned foliage is very attractive, especially when used as a border planting.

Mediterranean spurge reseeds well (perhaps too well for some gardeners?), puts on a fabulous show with little care, and is deer, rabbit and drought tolerant. After flowers have gone to fruit, and seed is set, you can hear the seeds popping, dispersing into the surrounding garden. In milder winters and in zone 8, this euphorbia can be evergreen. Like croton, another submission for this month’s featured plant list, Mediterranean spurge has a milky sap that is a skin irritant.Turner Season’s Garden: Fall Section
Colchicum hybrid ‘The Giant’ / Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron

Fall-blooming and often called “autumn crocus, it is not a crocus at all. It belongs to its own family, Colchicaceae, while Crocus belongs to the Iridaceae family.  They are visually similar, until you take a closer look. First, count the stamens. Crocus have 3, Colchicum have 6. Colchicum have 3 distinct styles, while Crocushas 1 that is divided into 3 just below the tip. The leaves of Crocus are very narrow with a white stripe down the middle. Colchicum has leaves that are wide, with no stripe and have long died back by the time of flower.

Colchicum is a corm, a swollen underground plant stem that stores nutrients, which aids in the plant’s winter survival. If it’s instant gratification that you seek, this plant will send up 5-10 shoots per corm. Colchicum are to be planted in later summer to flower only a few weeks later in early-mid fall. For the best results, plant Colchicum with friends like hosta and artemisia, or a groundcover that will help stabilize the plant as it is known to flop over without support.

‘The Giant’ is a hybrid between speciosa, giganteum, and others.It has a checkered pattern, or tessellation, of dark and light lilac and is white at its center. This Colchicum is one of the tallest and most free-flowering of the genus, its blooms frequently being compared to a goblet or chalice.Howe Garden
Aster shortii/ Short’s Aster

Located underneath the leaning ash in the Howe Garden, this native aster provides a soft overture as the season turns from hot to bearable. Blooming from late August to October, the radial-shaped (and larger than average) flowers of this species appear either lavender or light blue, depending on the light and surround yellow disks that will turn a reddish tone with age. Beside flower size, to distinguish from other woodland aster, the leaves can also be telling. Short’s Aster has smooth leaf edges and not toothed, like others.

Found in upland oak-history woodlands, rocky woodlands and slopes, as well as woodland borders and paths, you will often find this species in areas where limestone is close to the surface of the ground. As middle Tennessee is rich in limestone, Short’s Aster is a common site in our natural areas and provide nectar for many of our pollinators including the long-tongued bee, small-tongued bee, butterflies, skippers, and flies.These 5 fall florals can be seen throughout our gardens during
Cheekwood Harvest
. Stop by from September 19 – November 1 to gather garden inspiration that will inspire you to go beyond the mum!

By Shanna Jones, Plant Collections Manager at Cheekwood

Photos courtesy of Andrew Bruckse Photography
Anemonex ‘September Charm’ / Japanese anemone
Well-drained soils and partial shade are the 2 main ingredients for a winning anemone display. Although anemome can be slow to establish, after year 2 or 3, you may find that it’s a bit aggressive. The late flowering blooms are much appreciated here in the South when most other plants are preparing for winter or too hot and tired to put on a show. ‘September Charm’ is known for her abundance of single-flowered, upright blooms, an iridescent rose-pink in color and ability to extend its flowering well into October. This is a clumping perennial that forms rhizomes and is known to naturalize. Plant in partial shade to avoid leaf burn and with ample room to colonize.
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’
This cultivar is a tried and true one, dating back to 1937 Czechoslovakia when it was first found in a nursey. Today it one of the most popular perennials in the marketplace. With a high tolerance to heat and humidity, the species, R. fulgidais native to the southeastern U.S. Foliage is dark green, flowers are deep yellow, 3-4” wide with deep brown central cones.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘National Arboretum’ / fountain grass
‘National Arboretum’ is a late summer-blooming, clump-forming grass that produces dark purple plumes from August – October. The species is Native to West Australia and East Asia. As the name suggests, the cultivar ‘National Arboretum’ was developed at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C. The foliage isn’t anything too spectacular- it really is all about the feathery flower spikes with this grass, and some gardeners may even find the foliage more attractive as late fall and winter interest. The leaves take on a yellow-brown color when temperatures begin to turn in fall. Given full sun and an average amount of moisture, this grass can greatly benefit a garden’s texture palette and reach a height of 2-3 feet tall. It is a vigorous re-seeder in optimal conditions, but it does not come back true to seed.
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides/ Leadwort
True blue flowers and remarkable fall color are two attributes not commonly found in a low-growing, herbaceous perennial. Native to Western China, leadwort blooms from July until October and makes an outstanding groundcover during warm months (it is not evergreen) and does very well in most conditions. However, for the best performance, plant in well-drained soil and provide this plant with afternoon shade. It’s tricky to say that any plant is deer resistant, but leadwort is not the first plant that deer will go after. This plant pairs well with silver and gray tones, as well as with bulbs. Once bulb foliage begins to die back, Ceratostigma begins to bloom, creating a beautiful distraction.
Amsonia hubructii/ Arkansas Amsonia
It’s hardly about the blooms with this plant. Flowers occur in spring, and they are a very light blue, some may even see white. The foliage, however, is a substantially poofy mass of feathery narrowleaf foliage from late spring until frost. The texture provides a soft touch and dynamic contrast when paired with leathery-leafed and tougher-looking plants. Truly a multi-seasonal plant of interest, in autumn the entire thing turns from a pristine green to tones ranging from golden yellow to copper. This native is not a favorite with deer or voles and prefers full sun to be at its best.

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