Inexpensive Landscaping Ideas for Front Yard
When you contemplate injecting autumn colors in your landscaping, do not forget about planting fall flowers. People normally think of fall-foliage trees or shrubs with colorful autumn leaves (or perhaps perennials) when they ponder harvest-time displays, but annuals are an inexpensive alternative. You may associate annuals with late spring (everyone gets the planting bug in spring), but fall planting is the mark of the true landscaping enthusiast, who begrudges not even tender annuals such as marigolds a spot on the autumn landscape.
For a successful incorporation of such plants into the autumn landscape, however, you need to plan ahead (no later than August).
Growing fall flowers in the garden will enhance landscaping that is already graced by fall foliage trees. But if your landscaping lacks such trees altogether, planting fall flowers takes on even greater importance. The color display put on by these annuals and perennials will supplement the non-living autumn decorations in your yard, be they carved pumpkins and cornstalks, witches and scarecrows, or the few outdoor decorations geared to Thanksgiving.
But exactly when should you be planting fall flowers? You certainly shouldn’t wait for autumn, itself, unless you live in a warm climate. Doing so would minimize your enjoyment of them. On the other hand, even in the North it’s usually too hot to plant through the first part of August. So the window of opportunity for planting can be quite small.
Making matters worse is the fact that there’s no set date I can give you for planting, even for particular regions. Rather, it’s something that has to be played by ear. Some summers, a rainy period arrives in mid-to-late August, providing the perfect opportunity for planting. Other summers, a late August planting would still subject your transplants to excessive heat-stress, and it would be better to wait until early September.
Further complicating the issue is the question of availability. As the summer wears on, fewer and fewer garden centers will be carrying your favorite annuals. That is why I advise you to buy the annuals that best fit your desired landscape color schemes no later than early August, while they are still in stock.
Many homeowners think that planting fall flowers necessarily means limiting yourself to hardy species – plants that will survive the first frost. Such hardy plants are, indeed, useful. In the following pages I mention mums, ornamental kale, flowering cabbages and dusty miller, for instance, all of which will provide the landscape with color well after frosty weather arrives; another good choice is Montauk daisies.
Perhaps you’ve wondered what the difference is between flowering kale and flowering cabbage. They’re both considered Brassica oleracea. And in both cases, the “flowering” in the name is something of a misnomer, since the pretty color you’re seeing is not a blossom, but rather in the foliage.
- “The plants with smooth leaf margins are considered flowering cabbage.”
- “Plants with serrated or fringed leaf margins are considered the flowering kales.”
The wonderful thing about flowering kale and flowering cabbage is their cold hardiness. This trait renders them a perfect substitute for real flowers after the latter have been killed by the frost. In fact, they may still be providing the landscape with color after your painted pumpkin face has succumbed to the cold – or to rodents. Flowering kale and flowering cabbage are thus integral components of a landscaping plan designed for optimal enjoyment over the longest possible period of time.
But don’t be afraid to mix in some tender annuals, too. Their contribution will be brief, but spectacular. Marigolds are a good example, because they bloom in the classic autumn colors: orange, yellow, gold, etc. The two most common groups of marigolds are the French marigolds (Tagetes patula) and the African marigolds (Tagetes erecta).
In each case the common names are certainly misnomers, as the marigolds are New World plants, native mainly to Central and South America. Just another example of why we use scientific names when referring to plants.
From a financial perspective, you may be questioning the wisdom of planting such tender plants as marigolds as fall flowers. Isn’t it a waste of money to plant something that will be dead in a few weeks? It would be a waste of money, if you were getting them at springtime prices. But I’m referring to annuals that can be gotten inexpensively, due to the lateness of the growing season.
Take Advantage of Plant Sales Late in the Season
Cheap flowers can be found in July and August. By slashing prices after “prime time” for annuals, garden centers try to unload leggy annuals that they could not sell in spring; ideally, they like to move these cheap flowers by July. But others grow or buy in fresh recruits and continue to carry an inventory of cheap flowers during August.
The cheap flowers in the “leggy group” may not look like much when you buy them, because they have been sitting in nursery flats for too long. But they are still a great bargain, because they can be revived – provided you follow a few simple principles of container gardening. Check the undersides of the leaves first, though, to make sure they are bug-free. A bug-laden plant is no bargain, no matter how cheap it is.