Smith County Horticulturist
But thankfully, there are many plants that still put on a wonderful display of color and interest, seemingly oblivious to impending freezing temperatures.
Of course, many trees and shrubs at this time of year turn lively colors as the chlorophyll in their leaves breaks down, revealing hidden reds, yellows and oranges.
But there are a surprising number of flowering plants that wait for these shorter, cooler days to flaunt their blooms. Here's a few that are lighting up landscapes around town.
As a matter of fact, over 20 years ago, Extension horticulturists promoted these marigolds as “Mari-mums” in the Texas Superstar program, and encouraged their use as substitutes for bedding mums.
Why? Because their flowers lasted much longer, for weeks right up to first freeze, whereas chrysanthemum flowers have a much shorter flourish, and then it's over.
Cooler temperatures enhance the colors of marigolds, and also suppresses spider mites, a common problem on spring-planted mums.
So, mark your 2013 calendars in August or early September with a reminder to plant marigolds for a long lasting floral display next fall.
For locations, visit their web site at scmg.tamu.edu.
Turk's cap is a familiar perennial to many gardeners. While it does bloom nearly all season long, the fall bloom is particularly heavy, and migrating hummingbirds count on the bright red tubular blooms to provide nectar to help fuel their southern migration.
A great drought-tolerant, Texas Superstar plant for the perennial border, which blooms in both sun and shade (though not as heavily).
Japanese anemone is blooming right now. This hybrid anemone sports delicate pink or white blooms on top of long stems that sway in even a slight breeze.
Great for a partially shaded spot, and once established, this perennial will slowly spread to fill a vacant spot in the garden. When in bloom, they provide a relaxed yet sophisticated look to the garden. It needs average water to look their best.
A longtime favorite of mine is Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha). It has handsome grey-green foliage during the spring and summer, but bursts forth with long spikes of fuzzy purple flowers, tipped in white.
This is a very drought tolerant, sun-loving perennial (also a Texas Superstar) that looks great when planted alone, or try planting in combination with ornamental grasses.
Though you can plant these perennials at just about any time of the year, a spring planting will get them better established to provide a great first-year fall showing.
Keith Hansen is Smith County Horticulturist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. His web page is http://EastTexasGardening.tamu.edu His Blog is http://agrilife.org/etg.