Four Fab Plants for Fall

Grumpy won't put up with finicky plants. There are just too many easy and beautiful trees, shrubs, and flowers available to waste precious time on prissy, fussy ones. These four look great in fall and need about as much care as your sidewalk.

First one up -- Fanny's aster (shown above). A superior selection of our native aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius, recently changed by bored taxonomists to Symphytotrichum oblonglifolius), 'Fanny' grows into a dense mound about 3 feet tall and wide. Hundreds of rich purple, daisy-shaped blooms smother this tough perennial in October and November. Give it sun and well-drained soil. Crushed leaves emit a lemony scent and butterflies love the flowers. Sources: local garden centers and Niche Gardens.

Show of hands. How many of you out there think goldenrod causes hay fever? If you raised your hand, we'll excuse you to the next room now, so you may flog yourself in private. GOLDENROD DOES NOT CAUSE HAY FEVER! Ragweed does.

Lots of goldenrods are native to the South. Some are invasive, but here's one that's not -- 'Fireworks' rough-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'). It forms a non-spreading clump about 3 feet tall and wide. Sprays of bright-yellow blooms explode atop the foliage in late summer and fall, attracting butterflies from all over. Combine it with blue and purple flowers, like Fanny's aster and wild ageratum. Give it sun and well-drained soil. Sources -- local garden centers and Sunlight Gardens.

If you have trouble sleeping at night, don't plant 'Neon' showy sedum (Sedum spectabile 'Neon') beneath your bedroom window! The unearthly bubblegum-pink glow from the blooms atop this succulent perennial in late summer and fall will burn right through your eyelids.

'Neon' makes a clump of plump, gray-green leaves about 18 inches tall and wide. Do butterflies like it too? You bet. It's great for containers or the front of a mixed border. Give 'Neon' showy sedum lots of sun and well-drained soil. Forget about ever watering. It doesn't need it. Sources: local garden centers and Plant Delights.

Most shade trees that grow fast are horrible candidates for the average home garden. (Think silver maple, willows, mulberry, mimosa, sycamore, and poplars.) They're messy, buggy, weedy, weak-wooded, and have shallow roots that invade water lines and lift up pavement. Not Chinese elm (Ulmus parviflora), especially a superior selection named 'Allee' (pronounced al-lay).

'Allee' is one of the most popular shade and street trees in the South right now. Vase-shaped and spreading, it quickly grows to about 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It tolerates heat, drought, and air pollution; suffers from no serious pests; makes a good lawn or patio tree; and is good for planting between the sidewalk and curb. Its small leaves turn light yellow in fall, After they drop, you'll admire the flaking winter bark that shows speckles of orange, brown, green, and gray. Sources -- local garden centers.

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