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Several colorful options for fall blooms


It’s not an illusion any longer – we can actually sense that fall is going to happen fairly soon.

As much as we might crave that explosion of colored leaves that occurs in colder places, it isn’t going to happen on any grand scale here. We do have trees that change color and you can plant a yard full of them if you desire.

But more and more, small spaces seem to dominate and remove that option. So if you have just a balcony or a patio, don’t despair – you can still create a mood that will set the scene to celebrate our relief that the end of summer is at hand.

Our first tool is color and a few groups of plants present the perfect palette. Even if you haven’t been raised in the Midwest or the East, it is easy to see why chrysanthemums have long been the classic plant for this time of year. Colors range from bronze, russet and orange to several shades of yellow. The cool shade groups include mauve, magenta and deep purple. The flowers themselves are long-lasting and continue to have good form from the opening of the buds to the drying of the petals several weeks later.

Once mums have become fully budded and begin to open their flowers, they can be put in just about any light situation and the flowers will continue to open. In shady and slightly cooler positions, the flowers will last longer in a state of perfection. Once the flowers have begun to fade in color, they will keep their color if they are not in the direct sun.

If they are in the sun, the flowers will turn brown as each one finishes its blooming sequence. This doesn’t mean the end of the blooming. Simply snip off the fading bloom to leave space for the next. The sequence can continue for eight weeks if the plants are kept well-watered, fertilized and the spent flowers removed.

Many long-lasting plants can be used in conjunction with your chrysanthemums for spectacular autumn displays.

Try small pots of ornamental chilis that run the gamut of gold, orange, red and purple on a single plant.

Kalanchoes are another great ornamental that really lasts. In addition to its long-lasting flowers, the plant is quite succulent, making it a very low-water option.

To round out the options, choose from dozens of specialty plants, such as perennial petunias, calibrachoas, bacopas and a whole slew of other new and exciting varieties to add to your tried-and-true favorites.

If you want to do it yourself, take your pot dimensions, the knowledge of what kind of light situation the pot sits in and go to the garden center and make sure you ask questions.

If you want it done for you, you will find there is no shortage of beautiful containers made up and ready to go home and grace your patio with autumn’s abundance.

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at weekendplus@tucsoncitizen.com.

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