Many people desert their gardens as the days become hot in July and August but we can plan for lots of color during fall. Most everyone is aware of Mums and perhaps Asters. The tall New England Asters can be kept to 2 to 2 1/2 feet if you cut them back before July 4th. After that you could be harming the fall blooms.  I cut the entire clump off to 12 to 15 inches and have seen some people cut them to the ground but the blossoms were not as thick. I have a dark blue and a dark red.  The clumps slowly get bigger every year but in spring it’s easy to remove a section off one side for a new place. 

          The Hydrangeas can be quite spectacular. Annabelle has huge white blooms 12 to 15 inches across. Limelight is like Annabelle and starts out white but changes into green. Other varieties sometimes turn pink.  Each spring when my Annabelle comes up it is 2 to 3 feet wider on each side than it was. These new babies are easy to dig for garden club sales or gifts.  I have a variegated Hydrangea that has never bloomed. It dies down completely each fall and comes up a little wider and a little taller the next spring. It is in the shade and those variegated leaves add life. Several years ago I started Oak Leaf Hydrangea from seed and now at 3 years I have two huge, elongated blooms against a red wood (paint) fence.  Seeding is fun but requires patience!!

          Cosmos (I like the shorter, 2 foot bright orange ones) will start blooming in August and keep up until frost if you deadhead. If I leave some of the later heads on and then after frost kill, shake the plants where I want next year plants and there will be a fresh crop the next spring. Mine are in the “Hell Strip” as they can stand a little drought.

          Dahlias do not start blooming until almost July, so they will be doing well for your fall color-especially the big, tall dinner plate ones.  You can start the shorter, smaller flowered ones from seed to have earlier bloom.  Dahlias must be dug in Nebraska. Cut them off at ground level and dig widely 12 to 15 inches around and a full spade deep to prevent breaking the tubers from the main stem.  You may have as many as 5 to 6 possible new babies for next year.  Place in a plastic bag, flat in a box or on a shelf in a cool room. I have an unheated basement room that doesn’t freeze.

          For an edging along a path, the creeping Verbena works well, blooming a long time from late spring.  It only gets about 8 inches high but spreads to 12-15 inches wide.  I have a dark, bright red in a pot hanging over the edge. Along the path is a red one with a white “eye. I will need to deadhead to have blooms until frost.

          Some years I plant the Mexican Sunflower, a bright orange flower on a 6 foot plant. They like heat and will not do well in a cold wet spring so need to be planted later.  There are 2 heights so watch when you buy the seeds.  Goldfinger will be about 30 inches while Torch is 6 feet.  The leaves will turn yellow in a cold spell.  The 6 footer makes a bright background hedge as the leaves are big with many in a good year.

          There are Asters (New England) that may in late August and early September be as much as 6 foot if you did not keep them trimmed or pinched back until July 4th. I have a red and a blue that have been on the parkway many years.  The city rule in Lincoln says that nothing over 30 inches can be grown in the parkway so I cut them off to about 12 to 18 inches before July 4th.  That date is not arbitrary, it is just easy to remember.  If you do it much later, you will cut off the fall bloom.

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