I was chatting with a colleague last week, who said that he couldn’t wait for fall to come and kill off all the mistakes he made this year.

I know just how he feels.

September in the garden is definitely a time of reckoning. It’s just a little too soon to start cutting plants back and putting the garden “to bed” for the winter, so you are faced with taking a good hard look at what worked – and what failed – in your garden this season.

And oh, I had some fails. Mainly in the rear bed. Mainly in the upper portion. Take a look:

This part of the garden continues to plague me. The almost-dead Caryopteris bush on the left notwithstanding, there are other issues that I plan to address this fall. There are too many “bare” spots – granted, it IS September and things are beginning to die down but I’d like to have some more interest at this time of year. I still enjoy being out back (especially now that the weather is cooler) and it would be nice to have some plants in bloom, much like I do in the front bed.

Next is the Goldenrod. What Goldenrod, you say? Look closely (or click on the picture) – see those thin, spindly stalks with the teeny tiny yellow blooms? That’s what I’m talking about. Goldenrod is (theoretically) an easy-to-grow fall bloomer, with big fat bursts of yellow flowers. Like this. I cut it back hard in the spring, to promote thicker stems and a bushier shape, yet every fall I wind up with these pathetic, stringy stems. So it’s time to move this plant out of the garden and into the “lab” on the side of my house. Maybe with some neglect it will do better.

Finally, there’s the matter of the “Karley Rose” Fountain Grasses. I knew this grass was problematic – unkempt and floppy, easily flattened after a hard rain. But having coveted it for years, when I had the chance to plant a row of grasses in the back of the garden beds I caved.

Can you blame me? So pretty, right? But here’s the reality of this grass, thanks to our hot summers and monsoon-like rains:

A tangled mess. So these, sadly, will be removed and replaced with more upright, sturdier Switch Grasses.

Fortunately, there are lots of lovely blooms and grasses elsewhere in the garden, varieties that I highly recommend you include in your beds for what I refer to as the “last call” of the season:

Striking and unusual, I love Black Fountain Grass – it blooms late, and is nice and sturdy.

Anemone “Honorine Jobert” – clean, beautiful and looks great with the Fountain Grass in a fall arrangement:

The Snakeroot and Caryopteris (the one that DIDN’T die) are in full bloom:

And the Hydrangea flowers, even as they fade, are still big and beautiful:

I cut back the Montauk Daisies in spring so that they would bloom very late – they are just starting to open now, ensuring that I will have lots of flowers right through October:

And finally, I refreshed my planters with some fun fall colors (and a few gourds and pumpkins for good measure):

Next month I will show you how I revived that rear bed  – I’m looking forward to seeing that garden looking much better next year!

How do you spend fall in your garden? Do you have any favorite “late bloomers” that you rely on at this time of year? Let me know!



  1. rita st germain on August 30, 2013 at 8:11 am

    my fall garden is colored with rubekia, late phlox and Obedient plant…I am at 1,500 ft in Northern Vermont…will be harvesting herbs and gourds, pumpkin. i use my dad’s old shrub trimmer to cut perennials to stubs for the winter.
    Just stumbled onto your site via good Housekeeping.

    will continue to follow !

    • sherisilver on August 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      You sound busy! Thanks so much for writing! 🙂

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