BOISE — It’s fall, and nature’s colors are on display throughout the Treasure Valley. But if your own garden is starting to look a little drab, you can dress it up with some colorful plants that love the cooler days of fall.
Garden master Jim Duthie reminds us what makes the leaves change color, and gives us some ideas on some plants that will really bring back a splash of color in our own yards and gardens.
Fall colors are showing up all around the Treasure Valley right now as the days get shorter and the temperatures start to cool off. And a great place to sample nature’s colorful show is at Kathryn Albertson Park in Boise.
As the days grow shorter, the trees know that colder weather is on the way. The leaves stop producing chlorophyll, the chemical that helps convert water into the sugars that nourish the trees. All of the other colors that were hidden by the green chlorophyll start to emerge – reds, yellows, oranges, golds and browns, providing, at least for a few weeks, an explosion of nature’s brilliant artwork.
Fall weather is upon us and it won’t be long before we start seeing some hard freezes. But you can still get a lot of nice color in our yard with certain types of plants like mums, dahlias, and even flowering kale.
Mums are a great fall plant because there’s such a variety of bright colors you can choose from that will dress up your yard and garden as the summer foliage and blossoms start to fade away.
Mums, short for chrysanthemums, love the cooler weather and will continue to bloom even through the first light frosts of fall. They’re inexpensive, and since they’re perennials, if the winter weather isn’t too severe, they’ll bloom again next year.
They’re especially attractive when grouped in an assortment of colors, either in the ground or in containers, along with some other fall plants, like flowering kale and cabbage, and a few pansies. All of these plants will do well until the first real hard freezes force them into dormancy.
Kale and flowering cabbage not only add a touch of color but offer a different texture, as well, from the typical stems, leaves and blossoms of most flowering plants. Add some decorative grasses and you’ve got a container display that can’t be beaten.
And here’s a unique hanging basket – colorful flowering kale, with trailing silver falls dichondra. It requires very little water and will tolerate a light frost or two before the hard freezes set in.
Dahlias resemble their cousins, the mums, but are a bit larger and showier. They’re a little more tender than the mums, so once the really cold weather hits, it’s time to lift the tubers and store them through the winter for replanting in the spring.
And speaking of spring, now is a great time to plant flowering bulbs.
“I’m pulling a lot of my annuals right now, putting in my bulbs and then planting my mums and my cabbages and kale on top with my pansies, and those will usually make it through the winter, and then after that in early spring, the tulips come up, my pansies and violas come back, and we’re right back into spring again,” said Erin Monnie with Edwards Greenhouse.
That will also protect your bulbs from being dug up by hungry squirrels.
“I like to do my bulbs in groupings, and so here we have some that are actually just mixtures because sometimes it can be really hard to choose from the wide selection of bulbs,” said Monnie.
Planting now for fall color, and getting a jump on spring flowers at the same time.
Now is also a good time to plant flowering bulbs, like tulips and daffodils. Be sure to follow the planting instructions on the bulb packages. A good rule of thumb is to plant the bulb three times as deep as the size of the bulb.
Also, if the weather stays dry for a while after you’ve planted your bulbs, keep them watered so they don’t dry out until it rains or until the ground freezes.