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It's all about Pansies!

Lucky for us gardeners, planting isn't just a spring activity. Your gardening season doesn't have to be over in the fall. Pansies are a great way to extend your blooms into cold weather.

When selecting pansies, think about the surrounding area that they’ll be planted in. Annuals are used to not only provide beautiful color but to also give contrast in the existing landscape. With so many beautiful vibrant colors to chose from, the last thing you want to do is pick a color that will blend in with the existing landscape. Choose colors to POP! One of the best things about pansies is how low maintenance and care free they are. They are a tough annual that survive even the harshest environments. With just a little TLC, you can keep a tight form and keep them blooming all season long. Pansies tend to get a bit leggy at times. If this occurs, simply pinch them back. Depending on how large they have gotten you may even take them back to half of their existing size. This will stimulate new growth resulting in a tighter plant. You may lose a few blooms right off the bat but in the long run it will make for a much more attractive plant.

Another tip to encourage flowering and growth is proper fertilizer. When you fertilize, pay attention to the nitrogen (the first number listed on a fertilizer), and the phosphorus (the middle number listed). Those are the components of a fertilizer that promote leaf growth and flowering. We recommend McDonald Greenleaf fertilizer specifically formulated for Hampton Roads… it’s what we use on our own plants and it has been a customer favorite for years.

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Perfect Fall Companions

As nights become cooler and days get shorter, it’s time to get your fall garden off and running. We love pairing mums with companion plants for a truly unique fall garden. Try some of these out-of-the-box plants along with those beautiful mums we all know and love -- and sit back and enjoy a beautiful view this fall.

Sedum - Attractive, clumping perennial that displays large, plate-like flower clusters that start pink then turn to a rosy russet. It's succulent, solid-looking leaves give it a substantial presence in the garden. A fine addition to the rock garden or mixed border, where its flower heads will remain attractive well into autumn.

Ornamental Peppers - Ornamental peppers are a great addition to the fall garden. With foliage of all shades, the real shining star of ornamental peppers is the fruit it bears in bright colors of fall in many shapes and sizes. We especially love using ornamental peppers in container combos!

Encore Azaleas - Another wonderful shrub for the fall landscape. If you love the colorful flowers that an azalea shrub offers, then you'll love our Encore varieties. They bloom three times per year ~ summer, spring, and fall, yes, even fall!

Heuchera - These perennial plants are one of our favorites for all seasons, including fall. From woodlands and rock gardens to containers, borders, and groundcovers, Heucheras make quite the statement.The stunning foliage of these fast-growing, deer- and pest-resistant perennials is so multi-colored they’ll stand out in any crowd. A wide selection of varieties is available with large, heart-shaped or rounded leaves, the striking colors and variegation patterns.

Autumn Sage (Salvia) - Add these stunning perennials with spikes of purple or red tubular blooms to your landscape. Enjoy them from spring through fall! They prefer full to part sunny spots.

Plectranthus - A quick-growing annual that grows 24 to 30 inches tall and does well in either shady or partially sunny locations. Those grown in sun are more compact and the purple color on the undersides of the leaves is much more intense. Spikes of dark lavender flowers bloom from spring until fall.

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>

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Fall Flowers: Extend the Beauty of Your Garden

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Last month, my pollinator perennial garden was an overgrown jungle – one very much alive with beaucoup butterflies. After a couple years of milkweed, bee balm and mountain mint spreading and multiplying, it was time to thin out, clean up and make room for fall-flowering perennials and annuals.

First, I removed the fading foliage of perennials that had suffered lack of water while I was on vacation. Then, I sparingly pruned perennials that still had life in them, leaving ripe seed heads that provide a natural food source for birds throughout fall. As I pruned and cleaned, I also pulled up some of the bee balm that was spreading into my favorite shrubs that provide structure to the pollinator palace – hydrangea, Yuletide camellia, nandina, lantana and wax myrtle. The cleaning also uncovered the hiding place of a teeny baby turtle, which I carefully picked up and placed in a vegetative spot where predators could not see him. I laughed as I moved him, his little legs squirming and struggling to get free.

For fall color and pollinating purposes, I’m planting plenty of asters, including New England aster which is a larval host plant for the pearl crescent butterfly’s caterpillar and a perfect fall nectar plant for many butterflies, moths and insects. Goldenrod (sneezeweed, not goldenrod, makes you sneeze), toad lily, sedums and fall-flowering crocus will add more bursts of color. Then, I’ll place a few pots of lemon yellow mums on the nearby patio and sit back to enjoy several more weeks of seasonal splendor.

photos by Kathy Van Mullekom

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