Seize the Season: It’s Time for Fall Planting

Rudbeckia laciniata

Have you noticed that it’s dark in the morning again? And that faint chill in the pre-dawn morning air — have you inhaled its promise of autumn days to come? I sure have. Thoughts of autumn mean one thing to this obsessed gardener: fall planting!

It is my opinion that even the smallest landscapes always have room for a new plant or two. It’s a matter of researching your best options (right plant for right place), and you must be willing, on occasion, to do a little landscape editing.

Take a step back and cast an objective eye on your home landscape. Have you been pruning your forsythias into globe-shaped submission because they otherwise take up too much room? Are your evergreen azaleas plagued by insect and deer predation? Consider a radical fix. Yank out those old and difficult plants, and think long and hard about what plants you choose to replace them.

Most plants native to the southeastern United States (and especially the Piedmont region) will likely adapt more easily to your Piedmont planting spot. Native options abound, including many cultivars developed by horticulturalists. You’ll find you have more than enough choices among native plant offerings.

Not sure where to find native plants for sale at reasonable prices? I have the solution. Try the Fall Plant Sale at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC. Members get first crack at the goodies on Friday, Sept. 23 from 5-7 p.m. The general public is invited on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Sales support the NC Botanical Garden, and if you don’t know that great organization, go visit their Web site to learn why they are an essential resource to native plant lovers of the southeastern United States.

As for that flowering plant at the top of this entry, that’s a Green-Head Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), also called a Cutleaf Coneflower, because it has pretty dissected leaves. Although it’s called a coneflower, it’s not an Echinacea, like the Purple Coneflower I wrote about here. This flower is in the genus Rudbeckia, the same genus that gives us Black-Eyed Susans. However, Green-Head Coneflowers add much more drama to the landscape than Black-Eyed Susans.

Green-Head Coneflowers can grow as tall as 12 feet in shadier locations. And they tolerate shade very well. However, as you can see from the photo above, if you don’t stake them, they will fall over. I like this look. It keeps the flowers closer to where I can see them — and who has time for staking flowers anyway?  This native likes a bit of moisture to be happiest, and it spreads via underground stems, so plant it where it can stretch out and dominate a corner of your landscape. They’re called coneflowers, because the green centers in the flowers elongate as the seeds mature, producing brownish bumps full of seeds that native birds delight in devouring.

I grew my Green-Head Coneflowers from seed that I received as a benefit of my membership in the NC Botanical Garden. The Fall Plant Sale may include some Green-Head Coneflower plants for sale; I can’t promise, because you never know what goodies will be offered. But it’s certainly a possibility.

If you don’t live close enough to take advantage of the NC Botanical Garden’s fall plant sale, look around your area. Most public gardens and local nurseries offer great sales this time of year. It’s a great way for them to reduce their inventory, and for you to acquire some choice specimens for your landscape — just in time for their optimal planting season.

So go forth, find some gems, and settle them into your garden before winter comes knocking. Next spring, you’ll be glad you did.

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