We are all aware of Mums as hundreds of thousands of them appear at the garden centers, grocery stores, and hardware stores. Some of them may turn out to be hardy to show up again next Spring but most will not. Another late fall bloomer are the Asters of various sizes.  The New England ones can get up to 5 feet tall and enlarge their clumps every year.  I have a blue and a red one that I cut back the first of July to about 15 inches.  Others take them to the ground.  They will respond by branching out with many blooms about 3 feet tall.  If you do it any later they may not have time to bloom before hard frosts or freezes happen. A new bright purple Aster I have this year is “Purple Dome”. It only gets about 18 inches high but 2 feet wide.  On October 9, 2012, the 2 foot top was covered with flowers. It did not recognize that 22 degree F. temperature we had a few nights before.

          The fall Anemones also wait to bloom. The ones I have are in shades of pink or white and are divided into Japanese or hybrids.  The blooms are tall and up higher than the foliage.  The oldest one I know is Honorine Jobert that came from France in 1858. They actually like a little shade to prevent leaves from burning.  The have done best for me on the north side of shrub Henry Lauders Walking Stick.  This gives them some shelter from the wind that tears up the leaves.  Watch for them next spring and plant in moist, well drained soil that does not stay wet in winter or they will “root rot”. In some areas they are classed as “obnoxious” as the clumps can spread rather fast if they like where they are.  To ensure drainage you can put 3 to 4 inches of grit in the bottom of the space where you plant them if you have clay soil.  Then use the grit around the crown to keep it from being constantly wet. They spread by underground rhizomes.

          Just outside my front door there is a big 20 inch blue pot that I like to fill with Pansies in the Spring. When the heat hits they collapse and I try to find ornamental Kale plants or ornamental Cabbage plants (about 4 of them). You can usually find plants with ruffled edges with a pink, red, or white center. They grow fast and fill the pot like huge Roses during the summer. They prefer the cool weather of fall and it takes a very hard freeze to bother them so I have these “blooms” until Thanksgiving some years. If you have them in a bed, pull them up, cut the bottom off flat to make a centerpiece for your table.

          Among the survivors of our first hard freeze of 22 degrees F. was the 8 foot tall Maximillian Sunflowers. They are still up there and opening their 2 inch bright yellow blooms.  My three clumps are in their second year. They are in the background in front of a chain link fence so I should have a big yellow spot for several weeks into November.  Again watch for these plants in the Spring so you can give them a good start. The first year they will probably reach only 3 feet in full sun.

          Against a 6 foot wooden fence are the 9 foot tall Castor Beans.  Be careful if you have kids as the seeds are toxic and look very interesting to eat. Up there on top are clusters of red prickly pods on plants that can have huge green or red leaves that can be up to 3 feet across. The stalks are strong and I have had them 3 inches across so wind is not likely to knock them down. BJ will be tall enough to cut them down for me so I can save the seeds.  From below it looks like I might have a gallon of seeds.  “Ricinus communis” is a native of Africa and may grow to 40 feet there and is known as the Castor Oil plant. In addition to the poisonous seeds some people are allergic to the sap.

          The grasses are now at their best.  Many people let them stand all winter and small birds will swing on the stem.  Porcupine and Zebra grasses have yellow stripes across the stems. As the clumps of these grasses age the roots become crowded and a bare center appears in the clump which may be divided to start new clumps. It is not easy to cut through the roots and you will need a sharp spade and a heavy foot. George uses a reciprocating saw with a wood cutting blade to divide his ornamental grasses. The early Spring is the best time to do this. You can cut the clump to the ground and lift the whole clump and divide. Or the easiest is to just remove a “hunk” from the side of the clump. Removing over half of the clump will not hurt the plant.

          One of the easier grasses to divide is Little Blue Stem grass (Andropogon scoparius), a native of the United States. Usually in Nebraska it is 2 to 3 feet high and hybridizers have different species such as Blaze that has red foliage in the fall. A prairie type grass it does not like wet feet.  Full sun and somewhat sandy soil is its favorite soil, preferring a poorer soil or it grows too fast and collapses. Its blooms do well in winter bouquets.  It is the State Grass of Nebraska.

Copyright 2012





          The following Spring Blooming Bulbs need a cold treatment of 6 to 10 weeks this winter in order to bloom next Spring. The cold treatment is also needed if you are going to force blooming inside. I you are not going to plant the bulbs outside you can put the bulbs in the refrigerator, not the freezer, for the required time. Do not let them freeze. After the 6 to 10 weeks of cold, take them out and plant in a pot and enjoy the Spring color this winter. Forcing them is hard on the bulb so put in the compost pile. If you are going to force bulbs to bloom inside, ask your favorite garden center if they have bulbs that have had the cold treatment.


          Daffodils do not need the cold treatment.

Copyright 2012