A Few Late Flower Bloomers in Shenandoah

holdout flowers in bloom

holdout flowers in bloom

We had a very warm couple of days over the holiday weekend, and a few plants still think it’s summer. Some are putting out a few blooms in the drought-tolerant pollinator garden, even though most of the same species of plants are already setting seed.

Annual Garden Impatiens, Impatiens balsamina (upper left), blooms most of the summer, in various shades of pinks, purples, and reds. They are drought tolerant and low care but self-seed rather aggressively. The non-native seedlings require a fair amount of pulling to keep them in check. I let a few plants mature and set seed each year because the bumble bees really seem to enjoy the blooms.

Brown-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia triloba (upper right), is also annual and also self-seeds readily, but it’s a native, and it feeds a wide variety of pollinators in bloom. One clump can quickly spread into a large bed and crowd out other plants. Pull any seedlings not wanted or dig up in spring and share with friends. It behaves like a biennial or short-lived perennial in our area — I saw mostly leaves the first year after planting and a lot of blooms the second year. I leave up the seedheads for the birds, but you can cut them to help prevent self-seeding.

Blanket Flower, Gaillardia (middle left), comes in a wide variety of petal shapes and combinations of reds, oranges, and yellows. Some varieties are annual, and some are perennial, and they seem to happily cross pollinate and share characteristics. I believe mine are perennial because they reliably reappear each year, but they also self-seed. They do bloom first season, as well, if started inside in early spring.

Tall Vervain, Verbena bonariensis (middle right),  is a beautiful but non-native pollinator plant. If you choose to add this to your garden, you’ll need to be vigilant in controlling its spread since it’s considered invasive in some areas. I grow it in my drought-tolerant garden, and I have yet to have it self-seed, but under ideal conditions, it evidently will. The flower puffs grow on long wiry stems and float above other plants, which adds visually interest to the garden, and butterflies love them.

Painters Palete, Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’ (lower left) is a native that doesn’t look native. (Here, the small dark-red blooms are shown against dried Echinacea seedheads.) Though grown more for its variegated green-and-white foliage, not pictured here, the tiny flowers are amazing, as they send out a fair amount of seed each fall. This plant is considered a vigorous grower and spreads by both seed and rhizomes, as another common name of “variegated knotweed” would lead you to believe; however, this is indeed a native plant and of value to our flora and fauna.

Sunchoke, Helianthus tuberosus (lower right), is another vigorous native. A bright-yellow, small-flowered sunflower, this plant spreads by large edible tubers. I cut out a clump each year to use for my Master Gardener propagation talks, and it hasn’t affected the vigor of the plant. It grows very tall — at least 9 feet in my garden — and it needs support because a good wind can blow it over. Bees and butterflies really enjoy this native, so if you have room, consider adding it to the back of your garden!

So that’s some of what’s still blooming in my garden in mid October. I’ll share a few more tomorrow. In the meantime, I’d love to know what’s blooming in your garden!

*** This site is comprised solely of the opinions of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She works to promote gardening and tourism in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.***

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