Not every blooming plant dies with the first frost here in Southwest Idaho. And I’m not just talking about chrysanthemums or weeds. Of course, it depends on how low the temperatures go. Health of the plant and overall exposure make a difference, too. It is helpful for future planning, to take stock of what is still gracing the landscape, so here is a list of what I am finding colorful:
This white Japanese anemone grows in a well shaded northeast location in my yard. It spreads by the roots. I usually stay away from white blossoms during the rest of the year, finding they tend to get dirty looking quickly in the dry climate, but these white blooms have a fresh crispness in the fall. If the anemone blooms earlier, it is not much. The best show is in the fall.
As mentioned in my article about recognizing volunteer seedlings, I planted the original Prairie Sun Rudbeckia from seed. I enjoy the contrasting bands of yellow set off by the lime green center. This particular plant, which gets some afternoon shade, has been blooming since mid summer, sans deadheading, and it still has a load of flowers to display after several frosty nights. Specimens that were in the full sun were more worn down by the heat and are not this showy:
The gazanias and snap dragons, with a touch of pansy, have lit up this section of my front, full sun flower bed since mid summer. Even now, they hardly seem discouraged by the few weeks of cooler temperatures. The gazanias look like they are dressed in festive finery for an old-fashioned ball. The stripes and bright color designs on the petals are elegant, but playful. If you are looking for something to add cheer to the yard, this is a great choice!
During my 20 years of growing Heavenly Blue Morning Glories, I have noticed that they are one of the last volunteers (from seeds that were scattered from plants dying the previous fall, thus in the ground all winter) to sprout outside, but they do it when there is still the likelihood of a mild spring frost. So, it’s not that surprising that they hold up to a bit of frost damage and continue to bloom. In the photo below, the black parts of the plant only detract slightly from the bold blue flowers cascading down.
The blooming African daisy did surprise me, especially since the plant didn’t look like it had suffered from frost at all. I guess I have associated “African” with exotic, and thus tender plants. It loves the sun so much that it closes it’s blooms when there is cloud cover, thus making it unsuitable for bouquets in the house, but cool weather in the sun seems to be acceptable.
I end up weeding out quite a few volunteer calendulas all summer long, but those that make it into fall are appreciated for their depth of color. Something about the fall air seems to intensify color. Maybe it’s one last attempt to get the bees to visit. Maybe it’s the angle of the light or the common cloudy sky. Whatever it is, many flowers at this time of year have more potent color.
Just a few of the hybrid tea roses are sending out last minute buds in defiance of winter. The buds unfurl more slowly and last longer than in the summer. Here, I know it is the soothing gray white of the sky that sets off the pink, giving me ideas for fabric combinations in sewing projects.
That is just a handful of ideas to have when planting next spring, if you want to have some flower color lingering to contrast with the normal fall spectrum. If you can keep things watered during the last brutal days of summer, when it is tempting to give up, you will be rewarded with a final small burst of beauty. This may be just what you need to prepare for the cold.