The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting crisp. These cues from Mother Nature make the trees turn colors and fall blooms turn on their charm.
Mums are the big showoff in the fall. There are two main categories of mums: florist mums and garden mums. Garden mums will usually be able to flower again next season. Florist mums will die once a killing frost hits.
Ohio State University Extension recommends these cultivars for hardy garden mums. If you are looking for white flowers, find Encore, Illusion, Nicole, or Tolima. Debonair, Naomi, Stardom, and Sundoro are hardy pink varieties. Ginger, Grace, Sandy, and Triumph will be strong bronze flowers and Bravo, Minngopher, and Remarkable should be on your list for favorite red mums.
Many landscape experts recommend pruning them only in the early spring, then again in July. But leave them alone in the winter. You might be able to get some of those annual mums to bloom again and perennial mums have even more of a chance to make it through the cold winter. Don't cut too close to the center crown. Leave at least three inches of stem on the plant for it to re-grow once the threat of frost has passed.
Some old favorites in the fall are foliage plants like Dusty Miller. It has silvery foliage with deep indentions on its edges that make it an interesting addition to your fall garden. It also adds some glow to your evening garden. Silver Mound will also bring a light spot to a dark garden. Also known as Artemisia, this little beauty is strong on form, growing in a tight mound. It works well with other plants that have a vertical shape or less structured texture.
Looking for some height in your fall garden? Try planting purple New England asters. There are other tall aster varieties that will fill in behind some of the shorter mums and mounds. Annual sunflowers are also in full bloom in the fall. Easily started by seed in the early summer, these strong and tall flowers add vertical interest to any garden. Some varieties are more than six feet tall and shorter varieties grow about three feet with many different colors along with the well-known bright yellow blossom.
Try adding some vegetables that will steal the show in the fall. Ornamental kale and flowering cabbage are easy to grow and will last until a killing frost. Their unique shape makes a great focal point at the corner of a garden bed or near a doorway.
My favorite fall shrub is the oak leaf hydrangea. I planted three last year and they are filling in nicely. No big white flowers this year, but the huge oak-shaped leaves are coming along. If you look around, you can find a burning bush on almost every corner of each landscape.
Clip some bittersweet to put on your dining room table. Bright orange berries grow on this native vine. Go to a reputable nursery and look for American bittersweet for a less invasive vine than its cousin, oriental bittersweet.
Virginia creeper is a popular vine that turns dark red in the fall. Chokeberry goes through many colors in the spring and the leaves end up purple in the fall. It can grow up to five feet and has blackish-purple berries for the birds in the winter. Get the shovel in the ground and have fun!