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Better late than dreary: colorful fall bloomers

Contributing columnistNovember 15, 2013 

Spring and summer are prime time for the garden. Fortunately for home gardeners, some plants are late bloomers that wait until fall to bring a fresh blush of color to the garden and then keep going, even after frost sets in. If your landscape could use a bit of life this time of year, consider planting these r eliable favorites for next season:

Jindai aster (Aster tataricus 'Jindai'): In October, clusters of yellow-centered, finely rayed royal purple-petaled composite flowers, each about an inch in diameter, begin blooming atop 4-foot spikes rising from large, tobaccolike leaves. More than any other selection in my garden, the flowers host quite a show by attracting migrating butterflies and other insects. These easy-to-grow plants are named for Jindai Botanical Garden in Tokyo.

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus): Deep bluish-purple 1-inch-square flowers look like they're wearing hoodies, which is perfect for blooms that succeed at surviving early winter frosts. The bud-producing racemes grow atop stalks that reach more than 5 feet tall in my garden, popping out in brilliant contrast to the golden-leaved magnolia tree behind them. Monkshood is a long-lived and easy-to-grow cottage garden favorite, but in shady spots it might need some staking to support the heavy inflorescence. One caveat: All parts of this plant are poisonous.

Hardy chrysanthemum: The variety of mums called Hillside Sheffield Pink look like a delicate, dusty pale apricot version of a daisy. Three-foot high mounds of foliage send forth flowers in October, and they continue blooming through a few frosts. The eye-catching profusion also catches the attention of butterflies, and unlike ordinary fall potted mums, which usually last just a month or two, these hardy mums reappear for years.

Know your local springs

How many groundwater springs or seeps could you locate in Lexington?

Scattered around the city are places where water flows out of the ground through openings in the limestone bedrock. Not many of us have paid attention to the paths local streams follow, much less investigated where natural springs can be found. Yet they are all around us.

You can find them in Gardenside Park, behind Elizabeth Street Park and even in residential areas (one cuts under Sheridan Drive in the Rosemill neighborhood).

Ken Cooke, a member of Friends of Wolf Run Watershed, says that in that watershed alone there are 33 perennial springs flowing year-round and many others that are intermittent.

McConnell Springs is by far the best-known. You can find out more about this spring, discovered by settlers, at Mcconnellsprings.org.

Others on private land, such as Kenton Blue Hole along Parkers Mill Road, and Kay Spring, off Springhurst Drive near where Springs Inn once stood, carry historical significance as well.

Water quality and stream restoration are becoming important considerations for urban dwellers. To learn more, one practical online resource is a map of the Wolf Run Watershed, complete with a list of springs and their locations. Follow links at Wolfrunwater.org for information about restoration projects, geologic features of local limestone karst topography, and water- related issues facing this area. Contact information also is provided there.

The Friends of Wolf Run group will meet at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at St. Raphael's Episcopal Church, 1891 Parkers Mill Road. The meeting is free; hot chocolate and mulled cider will be served. Plans and projects will be discussed.

Honeysuckle eradication

One of the most troublesome invasive plants in Central Kentucky landscapes is exotic honeysuckle.

These woody shrubs are readily established from seeds dropped by birds, which eat the bright red berries. They are difficult to dig out because roots will resprout easily, and they crowd out the more delicate native plants under the heavy shade of their canopy.

Honeysuckle researcher Ryan McEwan, an assistant biology professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio, says that this is a good time of year for foliar eradication treatments.

"If you're driving along a woods in the fall, you'll see all these shrubs that are still green after all of the trees have lost their leaves," McEwan says. "That's honeysuckle, and it's very much in evidence. It can hold its leaves into December."

McEwan advises that if the honeysuckle leaves are still present, indicating the plant has not gone dormant for the winter, spraying it with an herbicide allows the foliage to take up the treatment and transport it into the plant while minimizing the effect on other species that already have lost their leaves.

That and staying ahead of invasions by pulling young plants by hand before they become established are worth the effort.

"The level of energy and investment it takes to eradicate it and then to restore the native species is enormous," McEwan said.

For more information, go to Ohioline.osu.edu/for-fact/pdf/0068.pdf, a publication of The Ohio State University Extension.

Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: durisek@aol.com. Blog: Gardening.bloginky.com.

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