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Autumn’s Secret Planting Season for Perennials in Your Garden

Posted on September 19, 2017 in Garden, Fall Gardening, Garden Tips

Written by Randal Atkinson

We all know Spring is the time to plant our gardens, right? Leafy things popping out of the earth, warmer days and an itchy green thumb. What if I told you that there is a secret planting season in the autumn, especially for your perennials? No, I haven’t been spending too much time in the sun this summer…well, maybe a few too many hours; but I’m serious about taking advantage of the autumn season to get your garden perennials planted.

purple plants

A Top Secret Garden

Your mission, should you choose to accept it – venture out into your garden this fall and start planting. Sure you might feel like you need to wait for the cover of darkness and dress all in black, just so your neighbours don’t think you’re crazy, but trust me it’s worth it. What most people don’t realize is that now is the best time to plant. The weather is still nice, the days are long, and we haven’t gotten a hard frost so the soil is still warm. It’s a great time to invest in perennials, especially shrubs, trees, grasses and groundcover.

Undercover Operation

 When you infiltrate your garden in the autumn and start planting perennials you might stumble across something surprising. Rather than being all about blooms and leaves, the perennials you plant will spend their energy on underground growth for their roots. Not only does this increase the health of your plants, but it also gives them a huge head-start for the spring when they can burst into action and surprise you.

 This is also a great time for you to do some reconnaissance and assess your garden. Are there dead spots or empty areas that need a hand? Would a tree or shrub help add some well needed shade for an area of your vegetable garden next spring? As every spy knows, it’s all about asking the right questions.

sunflower
leaves

Mission Deadline

 As an agent in the field, missing a deadline can mean failing a mission or compromising your agenda. In the garden there are consequences as well (although less dire).  Autumn won’t last forever, and soon the winter torrential rains and night frosts will arrive. Set a deadline for yourself to clean out the annuals from your garden and start replacing them with fall plants or perennials (we suggest September 24th). Why? Well first of all, do you really want to be out in the mucky wet soil when the rains hit in November? Me either!

 The second reason to clear out that garden and start with the autumn planting (sooner rather than later) has to do with shopping. You wouldn’t hit a Black Friday sale at nine in the evening would you? All the good deals will be gone and you’ll be left with the size 14 loafers in olive green. Sure in the spring you can be more relaxed about your shopping trips because there are plenty of options, but Autumn at the nursery means first-come-first-serve. Want to know what you might be missing? Read on.

Diamond in the Rough

 There are many fantastic plants to choose from when adding perennials to your garden in the fall. Perennials I suggest include the fall blooming Japanese Anemone in whites and pinks, adding surprise to your autumn plants. Heuchera plants will last all the way through winter and Ironweed (Vernonia) will present tall purple blooms all autumn that the honey bees will thank you for.

Read all about how Heucheras are the Rockstars of Your garden in this blog post.

fall plants
grass

Tall, Dark and Handsome…

Don’t overlook grasses, their vertical height will add interest and really fill out your winter garden. They don’t require too much space, which means you can plant them snugly between your other occupants without complaints. These beauties really reflect the fall and winter colours and textures, with warm browns and earth tones. The birds will also thank you, enjoying the seeds they produce.

When adding grasses to your garden, don’t be afraid to plant them front and centre (they don’t always want to be incognito). It adds unexpected depth and interest to your garden, rather than always placing them in the back or along a fence. Miscanthus (Silvergrass) is a beautiful grass with tawny brown or red eye-catching tufty flowers. For a tall variety, try Skyracer (Molinia arundinacea) and be warned it will live up to it’s name!

Not Just for the Garden

Autumn plants are fantastic for the patio and front door as well, don’t forget to change those over for the season! Check out our easy Autumn Perennial Basket in this DIY video.

Your Garden (and Your Neighbourhood) Thank You

 You may not get a presidential hand-shake for spending autumn in the garden, but you will reap the rewards all winter and certainly see them in the Spring when your well established perennial plants jump to life. Visit us in the nursery soon to see what we’ve got for your autumn garden, but remember…shhh, it’s a secret!

Don’t forget that fall is the time to plant your bulbs so they look fantastic in the spring! 

Need ideas? Check out our Pinterest board for ideas on creating beautiful Spring bulb displays.

Not sure how to plant bulbs in a container? Watch our quick DIY tutorial on planting bulbs to see the action.

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