There’s a lovely little native plant, a spring ephemeral, whose common name is spring beauty. It’s quite common in this area in wet places in early spring–you see it all along the Saddle River Pathway if you walk between the Glen Rock and Ridgewood duck ponds. That’s something to look forward to for next year. Today I’m going to show you some of the plants I think of as fall beauties.
Right now my garden is blazing with several species of Asters, Boltonia, goldenrod, and white snakeroot. while the summer perennials, particularly the Rudbeckias, continue to bloom with all their might. So here are just a few hints of what my garden looks like right now.
Sky-blue aster (Aster azureus), a lovely little plant, continues to bloom among little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) at the front of a perennial border. (Please note that the genus and species names in the entire Asteraceae, or aster family, are in flux right now, and the names used in the links I’m providing are different from the ones I’m using.)
Boltonia asteroides, with flowers that look like asters, grows up to 6′ tall and is most suitable for larger gardens.
White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) is a shade-loving perennial that is common throughout this area. It volunteered in my garden, and now that it’s established, it provides welcome fall bloom in the shady areas.
This goldenrod was also a volunteer for me. I don’t know what species it is–there are dozens of goldenrods (Solidago species), adapted to many different habitats. You see them in the woods, in sunny places, growing out of rocks on the seacoast, in wetlands, usually alongside similarly adapted aster species. This one seems to prefer part shade and has rhizomatous roots.
You might find it interesting to do some reading about goldenrods, one of our most distinctive native plant groups. Contrary to what many people believe, goldenrod does not cause hayfever. Plants from a totally different genus of the Asteraceae, Ambrosia, are the culprits. They’re commonly called “ragweeds,” and there are many species native to both North American and Europe. Their flowers are green, and they look nothing like goldenrod flowers, although the general form of the plants can be similar.
This shade-loving aster (I believe it’s heart-leaved aster, A. cordifolius), blooms so abundantly in the shade gardens along the sidewalk in front of my house that it lights up the block. It’s quite carefree and thrives in my very dry, sandy soil and deep shade.
All these plants provide abundant pollen for insects in late summer and fall, when there’s little else in bloom, and when they set seed within the next month or so, those seeds will feed the birds all winter. Consider planting some of these or any of the other late-season natives, and make your garden a year-round natural haven.