An early taste of autumn in the garden

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    White Dawn and hollyhocks combine for an unexpected late summer display.
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What a difference a week makes. Just a few days ago the garden looked sad and bedraggled. Today several roses are in bloom and some of my perennials are back in good form. It’s an enticing sample of what is to come in late September and early October.

Anthony Waterer spireas are a good example. I cut them back severely after they threw out a few pathetic summer flowers and now they are once again mannerly rounded bushes covered with blooms. The clusters aren’t as large as those in the spring, but for this time of year, they look impressive.

My blue anise sage (also known as giant blue sage and Brazilian sage) has been a hummingbird magnet since July. This plant arguably has the deepest blue flowers of any salvia and is a perfect companion for just about any rose, particularly the yellow/apricot Jude the Obscure.

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It's only supposed to be hardy to Zone 8, but since it has been happy here on Maryland's Eastern Shore for several years. I can only assume it doesn’t read books on horticulture.

My hollyhocks are volunteers growing in a small trellised bed that's home to three climbing roses and several miniature climbers. One of the roses, White Dawn, is a sport of the popular pinkish New Dawn, but it doesn’t rebloom as dependably. In fact, it hardly reblooms at all. So this afternoon, the sight of a single White Dawn appearing between two late hollyhock blooms sent me rushing for the camera. (See photo above.)

Of course, the butterfly bushes continue to be the most admired plants in the garden. Butterflies, moths, bees, hummingbirds, and those strange insects that resemble hummingbirds can’t help but hover around their own personal flower snack bar. (See photo on right.)

This year I’ve even seen goldfinches adorning the butterfly bush's branches like brightly colored ornaments.

To keep the blooms coming, I’ve been cutting spent flower spikes for several weeks. If I keep up with my deadheading chores, I should have a few small blooms returning till Halloween.

By then the trees will take the stage with their kaleidoscope of colors.  At least I will be able to enjoy them from afar. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that the ugly swamp maples in my yard don’t turn pretty colors like other trees. The leaves just turn a brownish yellow, then fall off.

Still, I see lots and lots of buds forming on the roses. So despite my lackluster trees, it looks as though I’m going to have a spectacular autumn show after all.

PSSST: Another victim of the economic downturn, Ashdown Roses will no longer offer plants for sale after Oct. 1. Owner Paul Zimmerman hopes to continue to be a rose advocate through workshops and speaking engagements. The Rose Whisperer and those who love roses from all over the world wish him the best and hope to see him back in business one day.

Editor’s note: You can find more posts by Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, at our blog archive. There are numerous garden articles on a variety of topics at the Monitor's main gardening page. Our RSS feed is here.

You may also want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos — and possibly win a prize. All fruit photos on the site as of Sept. 30 will be considered for a prize.  Also, join the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions.

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