by High Country Gardens

pam-koch-hummingbird-agastache-ava-az-blog
Late-blooming Agastache Ava provides plenty of nectar for hummingbirds, summer through fall.

I think fall is often the most overlooked and under-appreciated time in the garden. Maybe it's like downhill skiing in April. People figure the ski season is over and it's time to pull out your hiking boots. Yet, true "powder hounds" (skiers) know that here in the Rockies, the biggest, deepest powder days arrive with water-laden April storms. Well, the analogy is the same for the fall landscape; some of our most incredible and showy ornamentals are at their best after summer has passed when many gardeners have hung up their trowel.

Salvia Raspberry Delight contrasts nicely with Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass

Summer Rains and Fall-Blooming Native Plants

Fall is a glorious time in the Intermountain West, Great Plains and the Southwestern US. Many of our native plant species are responsive to the mid-summer rains that bring much needed moisture in July and August (affectionately known as the "monsoon season," when cloud bursts dump rain by the inch). Native plants respond to the monsoons with a burst of fall color, some of which are actually re-blooming after their late spring flush.

Plants To Provide Fall Garden Habitat

These fall blooming native plants have always been a focus of High Country Gardens perennial selection. Not only do these plants delight us with their brilliant flowers, but they are integral to the habitat garden, providing:

  • Precious nectar and pollen to migrating monarchs and hummingbirds migrating south to their winter habitats in Mexico/southern most Arizona & New Mexico.
  • Seeds and fruits for songbirds.
  • Nectar and pollen for butterflies, native bees, honey bees and bumblebees so necessary to build winter food reserves.

While the spring garden is full of smaller, compact flowering perennials and bulbs, the fall garden is the realm of big perennials and ornamental grasses that have been growing all summer before coming into flower.

Zauschneria canum var. arizonica Sky Island OrangeZauschneria canum var. arizonica Sky Island Orange

Perennial Highlights for the Fall Garden

Garden mums and ornamental cabbage/kale have become a fall flowering cliché', a big box store give away for no-thought gardening. Double flowered mums are of no value to pollinators. (If you're going to plant a fall blooming mum, look for heirloom, single flowered varieties which are nectar-rich.) Take a walk on the wild side and put your funds and labor into more sustainable perennials.

Text and Photos By David Salman © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republication is prohibited without permission.
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