Fall is a slow, lingering season where green mingles with hazel and amber. Shadows stretch their legs as nights slowly grow longer. Before long, plants have stopped blooming and the insects of the dark night cease. The phrase “Mum’s the word” is a popular English idiom that means to be quiet or silent….and that is exactly what a few plants have been doing all summer long.
If you love decorating for fall and all the cozy vibes of warm blankets, crunchy apples and pumpkin spice everything, but you don’t like buying into the consumerism of the season…here are a few options for your fall native plant garden. These plants sit still all summer long, barely paying any mind, then no sooner do the buses begin their daily routes, these beauties come alive. And “mum” becomes pop! Lasting well into the first really hard frost, these bloomers are the understated, late-comers that lend themselves well to the otherwise auburn hue of fall. Some take on a lavender bordering on maroon, whereas others are purple or plain white. And some even act as host plants too. So what is not to love about that? Asters are also a great source of nectar for soon to migrate monarch butterflies.
I don’t buy mums anymore. I think it has been at least 5 years since I have bought a mum at a local store. (Amazingly, I was spot on in the year. The above photo of my door decor was taken in 2018.) Nor do I buy pumpkin spice in a jar, when I have all the ingredients already inside my spice rack. (It is simply a mixture of mainly cinnamon and smaller amounts of ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and ground cloves.) But I do still buy a pumpkin. And I try to make it out to apple picking!
Below is a small number of plants in my gardens that offer a pop of fall color that won’t require a trip to the store in September with my pumpkin spice latte in hand. They simply come back every fall on their own. And when the long shadows of fall are chasing the last bits of sunlight at dusk, they really shine.
Alternatives to Buying a Mum Every Year:
Eragrostis spectabilis, purple love grass
Eurybia divaricata, the white wood aster
Eurybia spectabilis, eastern showy aster, simply showy aster or purple wood aster
Symphyotrichum lateriflorum, Calico aster
Solidago caesia ‘Golden Fleece’, Golden Fleece goldenrod
The cooler air that bestows a quieter night makes for tremendous sleeping weather. So I guess these fall blooming plants that slept all summer are now waking up in the cooler, brighter mornings, in stark contrast to me trying to sleep in just a tad more. (Is it just me, or does the sun shiner brighter when it is time to head back to school?) Their subdued dormancy in the growing season makes their fall bloom even more special. Knowing that they last well into October…or maybe even longer. Let’s see how long pumpkin spice lattes stick around, and then morph into chi and eventually peppermint.
Now, where is my apple bushel?
Fall, leaves, fall
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;A poem by Emily Brontë
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.