|Mid October, 2010 |
(various asters, grasses, coreopsis)
I garden for fall, when my landscape gets a massive second wind. Winter's already long enough, why not have flowers into November (in zone 5 anyway)? Not only will your seasonal affective disorder thank you, but so will many migrating birds and insects, as well as insects stockpiling for winter.
What you should plant now, ensuring a decent-sized plant by fall:
-- New England Aster (purple, not gaudy pink please)
-- Aster oblongifolius ('October Skies' blooms like mad for me and makes a nice small shrub)
-- Aster ericoides (a groundcover that blooms tons)
-- Aster laevis (smooth aster gets by far the most insects of any aster in my garden)
-- Aster lateriflorus (calico aster, chocolate leaves)
-- Aster macrophyllus (big leaf aster)
-- Goldenrod (I have stiff goldenrod--a monarch butterfly favorite--zigzag, wichita, and Ohio)
-- Mistflower (Eupatorium coelestium, blooms blooms blooms)
-- Salvia azurea ('Nekan' is a blue sage native to Lincoln, Nebraska, and I get hummingbirds on it)
-- Sunflowers, of course, yellow, red, orange, whatever
|Hummingbird on Salvia azurea 'Nekan'|
There are also late summer plants, say August into September, that are especially important for monarch butterflies as they migrate thousands of miles south:
-- Liatris aspera (rough blazingstar)
-- Liatris borealis (northern blazingstar)
-- Liatris ligulistylis (meadow blazingstar, and a monarch magnet--I've had six or more at a time on one plant)
(-- Milkweed -- don't forget to plant some well-behaved Asclepias incarnata or A. sullivantii to raise monarchs. Don't plant A. tuberosa, butterfly weed, as it is far less attractive to monarchs.)
|Monarch on Liatris ligulistylis|
Where to get these plants? Prairie Nursery and Prairie Moon Nursery, or if in Lincoln, the UNL Arboretum.
As I continue to evolve as a gardener, I plant FOR INSECTS. I think it's easy to be afraid of bugs--especially bees and wasps--but they are the basis for life in the garden and beyond, and so I've come to find them beautiful and even honorable (particularly as they rid me of aphids). Think about what one aster laevis could do for struggling native bee populations or diminishing song bird populations. Just one aster off the patio is huge. And three? A godsend. If all the neighbors on your block have one? A veritable wildlife refuge.
If you haven't, I urge you to read Doug Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home, especially regarding the importance of native plants for native insects and birds. You'll discover which butterflies need which plants, by region, and how surprisingly beneficial trees and shrubs are (oak, willow, chokecherry...). The more native plants I get, the more wildlife I see, of ALL KINDS. Even butterflies ignore my non native plants, like butterfly bush, if natives are blooming. Astounding. But it makes sense.
|Bumblebees on goldenrod|
So it is / just was Earth Day. Get some fall-flowering plants in the ground and think ahead for yourself, and for the life we depend on that's swarming around you.