First, I want to thank the person who gave me a little baby pumpkin plant last spring. It produced two pumpkins one a 23-pounder. For the time being, they look great on my porch. After Halloween, theyll make a lot of pumpkin pies, pumpkin soup and pumpkin bread.
Beyond the splash of color of my front porch pumpkins, I see colorful fall plants in my yard and in the neighborhood. This is a good time to look around your neighborhood, city parks and especially the Idaho Botanical Garden for ideas of what to plant next spring for fall color in your garden.
A lot of flowering plants are past their summer prime. Ive already cut back the purple coneflower, iris, and others. The sedums still have colorful seed heads, but their leaves have definitely lost their luster.
Native blanket flowers (Gaillardia aristata) are still blooming. If you dead-head the spent flowers throughout the summer, youll have lots of blooms through frost. These wonderful natives start blooming in late spring and just dont quit.
The hardy hummingbird trumpet (Zauschneria arizonica) in my front yard is covered with red flowers right now. Too bad there arent any hummingbirds around to enjoy them. For most of the summer, its a ho-hum plant. But in the fall, it struts its stuff.
Several years ago, I planted a Western Sandcherry (Prunus besseyi) at the front of my garden. Its a little shrub only about 2 feet high and wide (and it wont get much bigger). Right now, the leaves are deep red and make a statement that fall is here.
Serviceberries are a nice native shrub that get good color in the fall. Mine is covered with white flowers in April. By midsummer, berries that look and taste like small blueberries ripen for the birds (or for you if you watch carefully and get them before the birds). They perform again with their fall color. In the winter, their 15-foot height and branch structure add form to the garden.
Ornamental grasses are always good for fall and winter color and structure in the garden. Most of our native grasses are 12 to 24 inches tall and are suitable for front of the border or small garden spaces.
One exception is Great Basin Wildrye (Leymus cinereus). It grows to 4 feet tall sometimes taller. It takes a few years to reach that height, but when it does, it makes a statement year round. With roots that reach down 14 feet, its drought tolerant as well.
If youd like to put ornamental grasses in your garden, but youre not sure which one would have the look and color youd like, the library has several books on ornamental grasses. One in particular that I recommend is Ornamental Grasses for Western Gardens by Marilyn Raff (635.9349 RAFF at Boise Public Library).
In the back of the book, theres a chart of grasses listing height, water needs, color and more. There are a lot of nice color pictures throughout the book as well.
If you have particular questions about gardening youd like to see addressed in this column, send them to email@example.com.