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by Pernell Gerver

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"The Best Autumn-Blooming Perennials for Shade"

Think of fall, and autumn leaves come to mind. The arrival of autumn brings with it cooler temperatures and shorter days. The arrival of autumn does not mean the end of bloom in the garden, however. Autumn is a time when many perennial flowers come into their own. Fall-flowering perennials keep the garden in colorful bloom through frosty weather when all other flowers have gone by. These late-summer and fall-blooming perennials are otherwise inconspicuous in the garden in spring and summer, but when the end of the season nears, they come forth in a flurry of bloom that starts in September, continues through the killing frosts of October, and many persist into winter and beyond to provide winter interest. Click on a plant name below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Beginning to bloom in late summer and continuing right to frost, hardy begonia is a lesser-known perennial that should be grown more.

Pink hardy begonia is a bushy plant with light green foliage. The undersides of its angel-wing-shaped leaves are maroon with deep-red veins. It bears large clusters of pale-pink blooms from midsummer to frost. The flower clusters stand above the foliage and arch outward. It self sows readily, increasing the original planting. It grows 12 to 18 inches high and wide and is quite unique. It's one of the hardiest plants in my garden. It's growing in the coldest part of my garden and it comes back bigger and better every year. It grows well in shade to part sun.

White hardy begonia is even more rare than pink hardy begonia. It has the same light-green, angel-wing-shaped foliage with maroon undersides and deep-red veins. Its flowers are pure white and begin blooming in midsummer and continue to frost. Like pink hardy begonia, it self sows, increasing the original planting. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall and wide and thrives in shade to part sun.

Japanese anemone is a late-summer and autumn-blooming perennial that grows well in shady spots in the garden. One of the best varieties of Japanese anemone is 'Pamina.' It forms a handsome mound of foliage not quite two feet tall - no staking required! Flower stems rise through the foliage and stand three feet high. Dozens and dozens of flowers bloom over a long period from early September right through frost. The double flowers have many petals surrounding a central cluster of orange stamens. Flower color is rosy lavender and is quite eye catching.

Cimicifuga 'Brunette' is an autumn-blooming perennial that combines striking foliage and attractive flowers. It forms an impressive mound of deep-maroon-purple leaves nearly three feet high and wide. Rising through the foliage in late summer and into autumn are five-foot-tall flower wands that carry white flowers. The flowers have a sweet, fruity fragrance like ripe grapes and the fragrance carries on the breeze. You'll smell this plant before you see it!

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Now's the Time to Work on Non-Booming Peony"

Q. I have two peonies. One blooms every year and the other nothing. They are both about eight years old. Any suggestions? Thank you so much. I just love your articles.

A. As long as your non-blooming peony is otherwise healthy and is receiving enough light, it's possible it has a condition referred to as "blind" peony. This occurs when the eyes or crown of the plant is planted too deeply, gets buried, or is covered with mulch. If any one of these scenarios occurs that peony will not bloom.

You can remedy this situation and now is the time to do it. Carefully dig up the non-blooming peony. Rinse off the soil. You will notice a pink area and possibly buds just above the thick roots where the stems arise. That is the crown. When you replant the peony make sure the crown is no more than one inch below the soil's surface and do not apply any mulch.

Click here to read more about peonies and order them from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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