Shirley Walkley, at the Langley Garden Club’s annual picnic recently, displayed her centrepiece of summer bulbs. Columnist Pam Erikson says it’s time to start thinking about planting bulbs.(Pam Erikson/Special to the Langley Advance)

GREEN THUMB: Fall and bulb planting on the horizon

This month, Langley columnist and gardener Pam Erikson reflects on the summer and looks to autumn.

Fall is just around the corner – really!

After having the longest cold winter I can remember, followed by the hottest, driest summer on record, this has definitely been a tough year on both people and plants.

While people can find respite in pools and air conditioning, plants are completely at our mercy for their care.

We have long advocated the use of drought-tolerant plants, this year being put to the test with not-so-surprising results (for the most part).

The sedums, lilies, and heucheras continue to amaze as they look spectacular with little or no watering.

Surprisingly, the epimediums and the hostas, both well known moisture-lovers, seem to have adapted and certain varieties are just thriving.

A lot of other perennials may look quite dead, (phlox, daylilies, brunnera, astilbes to name a few), but it is the plant’s natural reaction to shut down in times of drought stress – tops dying off to protect the root systems.

In most cases they will come back when the fall rains begin.

Lawns are quite crispy, but I have said time and time again that a ‘dead’ lawn now will still come back – it just may need a little top dressing and spot overseeding next spring.

Grass is one of the toughest ‘plants’ for sure.

As for annuals, if they have been well watered, they are still happy.

However, if you are on water restrictions or have a shallow well, this heat can be devastating as hanging baskets and containers dry out rapidly.

Personally, we have now removed any annuals from containers in an effort to conserve water.

The plants looked lovely earlier in the year, but with fall fast approaching I’m ok with giving them up to help the water table.

On the plus side, we are getting ready for fall planting – tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and alliums – lots of choices for early spring colour.

Alliums are not as well known as other spring bulbs but they are spectacular.

Consider big purple blooms on Allium Giganteum, the white blooms on Allium Brillance, the massive unique flowers on Allium Schubertii, or the quite unknown Allium Bulgaricum – with its bell shaped flowers that hang in clusters.

This is also a great time to plant Arum Italicum – our favourite plant for winter foliage.

Very similar to hostas, with big deep green leaves, this amazing plant emerges from the ground when the weather gets cooler in later September and October, producing masses of beautiful foliage that stay looking fabulous right through the winter – until early spring.

In the late summer, this amazing plant produces big seed heads of bright orange berries that are also fabulous in cut flower displays.

We love to have year-round interest in the garden and Arum is one of the best.

Next month, we will highlight some must-have trees that produce winter color as well! Until then, enjoy what is left of the summer and look forward to the cooler temperatures of the fall.

– Pam Erikson is owner of Erikson’s Daylily Gardens and Perennials and president of the Langley Garden Club.

 

Sedum Sunsparkler Lime Twister is a drought tolerant plant in full bloom now.(Special to the Langley Advance)

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