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"The Best Autumn Perennials"

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.

Sedum 'Brilliant' begins blooming in late summer and continues into fall. It bears large, flat-topped clusters of brilliant-pink flowers atop attractive, chartreuse, fleshy foliage. Instead of deadheading the flowers once they go by, I leave the flowers on the plant through winter because they catch and hold snow, providing winter interest. Sedum 'Brilliant' forms a handsome clump a foot and a half tall and wide.

Goldenrod 'Fireworks' is a graceful plant with long arching sprays of bright yellow flowers that appear in late summer and continue into autumn. The flower sprays really look like fireworks exploding. It grows three to four feet tall and prefers a sunny location. The long stems are good for cutting. This cultivar is a special hybrid that was bred for its unique bloom pattern. Goldenrod is blamed for allergies, but it's actually ragweed that sheds the offending pollen, not goldenrod.

New England aster 'Purple Dome' is one of the more desirable asters because of its compact plant habit, eliminating any need for pinching to keep the plants short and bushy. 'Purple Dome' is aptly named because it forms a perfect dome of purple flowers 18 inches high and wide. It doesn't begin blooming until late in the season and is a good substitute for mums.

Japanese anemone 'Pamina' is one of the best varieties of Japanese anemone. 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 rosy-lavender 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. It grows to 30 inches tall with the flowers.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Grow Mandevilla Indoors Over Winter"

Q. I have five beautiful Mandevilla vines and would like to know if it's possible to save them for next spring and if so what do I need to do before frost? Thank you.

A. Mandevilla is a tropical vine with large, showy, trumpet-shaped flowers. Unfortunately, it's not a hardy vine in areas with cold winters and in order to have it from year to year in the garden, it's necessary to bring it indoors for winter.

Mandevilla 'Alice Du Pont'If your mandevillas are planted in the ground, dig them up before the first frost and put them each in their own large pot. It's okay to prune off some of the top growth, if needed. Put a trellis in each pot so the vines have something to climb on.

Indoors, grow the vines in a spot that gets curtain-filtered or bright, indirect light. Night temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees and daytime temperatures of 70 degrees and higher are ideal. Keep the soil evenly moist. It's not necessary to fertilize during winter. Next spring, after all danger of frost has passed, bring them back outside. Pinch the top growth at this time to help promote extra stems.

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