Invest for the Future

Plant now for spectacular flowers come spring.
Ellen Ruoff Riley

Autumn gardening falls into two categories. There is the immediate gratification of cool-weather annuals such as pansies and violas that are in all their glory right now. But don't forget--you can also plant for another season. Make time for those flowers that are not of the moment, and you will be rewarded with magnificent spring blooms.

Purchase dame's rockets, sweet Williams, common foxgloves, and bachelor's buttons at garden shops and nurseries in six-pack containers. They are economical and have plenty of time to reach blooming stature by spring. Use a granular, time-release fertilizer when you plant, and surround them with a light layer of mulch or pine straw. Water the garden if rainfall is minimal. That's all you do.

Dame's rocket
(Hesperis matronalis)
Light: Full sun, filtered light
Place in the garden: Dame's rocket reaches 3 feet tall with multiple flowers on a bushy plant. Put it at the back of the flowerbed.
Good to know: Cut some flowers for a billowing bouquet, and leave others in the garden to drop seed for next season. When they are through blooming, remove the plants from the garden.

Sweet William
(Dianthus barbatus)
Light: Full sun
Place in the garden: Sweet William grows about 18 inches tall, so plant it from the middle of the bed toward its front edge.
Good to know: This plant may last several growing seasons. To ensure longevity, be sure to remove spent blooms and feed plants with a granular, time-release fertilizer. You will enjoy vibrant color for another spring.

Common foxglove
(Digitalis purpurea)
Light: Part sun, light shade
Place in the garden: Expect towering blooms at least 3 feet tall. Plant them at the back of the bed in odd numbers. Space plants about 1 foot apart.
Good to know: When the flower stalk fades, cut it off. Smaller bloom spikes will follow. When they are done, remove plants from the garden and add them to your compost pile.

Bachelor's Button
(Centaurea cyanus)
Light: Full sun
Place in the garden: Bachelor's buttons flower when they reach about 2 feet tall, with blossoms floating atop bushy plants. This is a great middle-of-the-border bloomer.
Good to know: Most bachelor's buttons come in mixed-color packs. The colors include blue pink, white, and burgundy. They cut well and make stunning bouquets.

"Invest for the Future" is from the October 2007 issue of Southern Living.