Nancy Brachey

Fall flowers that thrive in Charlotte gardens

Pansies come in a huge range of light to dark colors and are well-suited for growing in pots and other container.
Pansies come in a huge range of light to dark colors and are well-suited for growing in pots and other container. charlotteobserver.com

The gradual shift of the seasons brings gardeners to yearn for a new, fresh look in their landscapes. And after all we’ve been through this summer, what could be nicer.

Fortunately, garden centers are starting to restock their shelves with gorgeous arrays of pansies, violas and potted mums.

I have been thinking about these lovely things since early August, when it seemed like summer heat and drought would never end. Well, it is still hot – just not as hot – and the drought is still with us.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t seize the opportunity to freshen up the flower beds and containers this month and lighten our mood while doing it.

Some flowers such as zinnias that delighted both people and butterflies this hot summer are well past their prime and ready to depart for the nearest compost pile. It’s the same with containers. Even if the plants still look good, you are ready to see something different.

Pansies and violas

Pansies and violas are well-suited to planting either in flower beds or containers and will be with you until late spring. And if we have a mild, sunny winter, these fine plants should bloom the whole time.

They come in a wealth of colors from white and pastel pink, yellow and blue to vivid oranges, reds and violets. Choose what you like and don’t worry about mixing the colors. They almost always go together. Red and yellow, blues and violet, orange and blue all look wonderful.

It’s the same with violas, which are like pansies but bear much smaller, more numerous blooms. These are wonderful bedding and container plants; charming is the best word for them. Violas also mix well with pansies because the varied sizes make a more interesting look.

Chrysanthemums

Though their bloom season is shorter, chrysanthemums make outstanding additions to the landscape in autumn. They are used most often in large pots set on decks or patios or beside the front door. Early in the season, plants are often sold as well-budded specimens with just a few flowers opening to show color. As time goes on, the buds open and the plant goes toward full bloom, a glorious sight indeed.

While mums are well-suited for containers, it is essential they be kept well-watered to keep the buds opening and flowers pretty for as long as possible. Cooling weather helps too, so while the weather remains on the hot side, keep them away from direct afternoon sun. The plants require sun for the buds to open, but cooler, morning sun is better for the moment.

The reason particular attention must be paid to watering potted mums is because the plant has been pushed to produce a large amount of roots that support the dense array of stems, leaves and buds above.

Without water, a mum will wilt rapidly, resulting in a shorter bloom life and failure of buds to open. I would give it daily attention during the warm weather of September and probably into October. But that does not mean the pot should sit in standing water. Make sure to pour away any excess water that drains into the saucer or pot. It will also help to put a layer of gravel or shells into the bottom of the container that holds the mum.

Nancy Brachey: nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com

Ask Nancy

Q. I saw some white daisies in a store. They were blooming now and looked like Shasta daisies, but have thicker, glossier petals. I forgot the name.

A. That is the Montauk daisy, which is a nice fall-flowering perennial. The long-lasting white flowers with yellow centers are unusual in autumn, but very pretty and a reminder of the best of summer flowers. It looks good with mums, asters and pansies. The botanical name is Nipponanthemum nipponicum, which tells you it originated in Japan.

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