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Gardening: Cooler weather brings second encore for some plants in Inland Northwest

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 8, 2021

These black-eyed Susans are one of the stars of the early fall garden with their bright, cheerly yellow blooms. Right behind this clump is an Autumn Joy sedum or stonecrop whose flat, bold flowerhead is starting to turn a dusty pink before turning a dark rose color later. Both are important sources of food for bees and birds.  (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
These black-eyed Susans are one of the stars of the early fall garden with their bright, cheerly yellow blooms. Right behind this clump is an Autumn Joy sedum or stonecrop whose flat, bold flowerhead is starting to turn a dusty pink before turning a dark rose color later. Both are important sources of food for bees and birds. (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

This time of year, the perennial garden can take on a colorful life of its own. The cooler weather allows heat dormant plants to come alive again and spread their fresh color over the garden. Here are some highlights to begin planning for next year’s show.

Rudbeckia or black-eyed Susan is a cheerful bright yellow daisy-like flower with a large brown disk at their center. They start blooming in late June and will go until September. After dying down, they are an excellent source of seed for songbirds. The plants grow about 2 feet tall which makes them perfect for the middle of a flower border. Hardy to USDA Zone 3, it prefers an average soil and consistent moisture. It is deer resistant.

Autumn Joy sedum or stonecrop is a bold plant in the garden any time of year with its large, thick, fleshy leaves and flower head. In late August however, the flower heads begin to take on a light rosy color that attracts droves of honey bees. Through September, the color deepens to a dusty red before taking on a coppery hue. Left standing in the garden, the heads turn a tan color for winter interest. They are supposedly deer resistant, but my herd sometimes likes to snack on them. It is hardy to Zone 3.

Goldenrod is a Midwest prairie native that sends out feathery branches of small yellow flowers the bees can’t resist as a late source of nectar. The plants grow 3 feet tall and add motion to the garden as they wave in the wind. Hardy to Zone 3, it likes an average soil and consistent watering.

Asters are another bee magnet in the September garden. The bees are so busy gathering nectar from the daisy shaped flowers that they hardly move when you walk through the plants. Asters come in shades of purple, pink, blue and white and grow from just a few inches tall to over 4 feet. Unfortunately, asters are deer candy, so they need to be grown inside a fence. It is hardy to Zone 3.

Joe Pye weed is not a common perennial in Inland Northwest gardens, but it should be. Another Midwest prairie native, it can stand over 5 feet tall, perfect for the back of a border. It starts blooming in mid-August and will go until frost. It’s large, dusty rose, loose, globe shaped flowers nod gently in the late summer wind to create movement in the garden. It needs humus rich soil and doesn’t like to dry out. Hardy to Zone 4, it’s deer resistant.

Japanese anemone is a tall, stately plant with ferny, medium green foliage and of gently cupped flower heads in pink and white with a pronounced ring of yellow stamens in the center. One of its other common names is Japanese wind flower because it waves gently in a breeze. It will grow to about 4 feet high and does best in rich, cool soil with consistent moisture. Hardy to Zone 4, it’s deer resistant.

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