The slow march towards winter begins with the final lap of a four-stage relay.  Autumn is in the air everywhere across the country.  The appearance of some rather bedraggled petunias or Rudbeckia reminds us of this each time we walk out the front door of the house.  

No worries.  It’s just a reminder to spruce things up a bit.

It might surprise you to learn that some fall flowering plants actually improve with frost.  You knew that we got frost for a reason!  Flowering cabbage and kale are two such plants.  In fact, in my zone 5 garden, which is south of Barrie and north of Toronto, they peek around Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 -- or so I like to think.  Give a few a try for some late-season colour.  But don’t try eating them unless you have a cast iron stomach.  

For an immediate lift of colour try planting some hardy mums.  The new varieties that are grown by virtually every greenhouse across the country now are called “Belgian” mums and the flower bud count is astounding.  A large, 12-inch pot at the front of my house has over 700 blossom buds.  At $13 for the plant that is about two cents per blossom.  If it blooms for four weeks, which is not uncommon, that is about half a cent per week per bloom.  Who can’t afford that kind of lift?

If the colour blue is a favourite of yours, try planting some New England Asters.  Mums do not come in blue, but blue asters are common and are more winter-hardy than mums (in zone 5).  Asters can overwinter successfully in zone 4 areas nicely.

Pansies are also great fall flowers to try.  They are bright and hopeful in appearance and tough in character.  Many will bloom again come spring, but peter out come early summer.  That’s not bad for a small investment.

Finally, ornamental grasses come into their own during the fall season.  They are not exactly flowering plants, but they do attract a lot of birds to their seed heads when they mature.  They also look great in a late fall/winter garden.  Leave them standing all winter and cut them down in the spring.

Mark Cullen