Gardening Blog

Autumn offers opportunities for garden color - both outside and in

Mums, ivy and Croton form a seasonal display.
Mums, ivy and Croton form a seasonal display. Special to The Island Packet/ The Beaufort Gazette

Here are some fall planting tips.

Seasonal accents: During the fall, many of us brighten up an entrance, patio, deck, pathway or porch with garden color. Local nurseries and home improvement stores are filled with chrysanthemums, cornstalks, pumpkins and gourds. These items can be used for a special celebration inside a house or other venue and then moved outside.

Snapdragons, pansies, petunias, pinks and dusty miller can also be used for a one-time display inside and then planted outside. Insure that they receive four or more hours of daily sun. Unless our Lowcountry winter is particularly harsh, these plants will provide color until spring. You might select a variety of colorful plants for a large container placed in a prominent spot. Blocks of a single color in the ground can be separated with white flowers or the silvery leaves of dusty miller to create an eye-catching presentation. White and silver also offset a dark shrub border or a dark-colored house. Take advantage of the contrast offered by variegated ornamental cabbage and kale. A friend planted a triangle between the front sidewalk and driveway with 21 green and white cabbage a couple of years ago, and the result was a knockout.

Landscape Revamp: In addition to adding seasonal accents, you might be contemplating reconfiguring one or more areas of your landscape. Fall is definitely the best time of the year to accomplish this task.

As you plan, pay attention to the availability of sun, shade and water. Check plant labels for information about growth and hardiness. Go to the library or use the internet for additional advice. Select plants that are adapted to the months of Southern heat and humidity and our lack of extended cold weather during winter.

The fact that a plant is sold in our area does not mean that it will thrive here. Among this group are trees and shrubs such as dogwoods, flowering cherries, lilacs and forsythia.

Below are a few suggestions to follow when replacing or adding plants in the garden.

Perennials: Most need periodic division and replanting to look their finest. Divide spring and summer blooming perennials now. Do not expect new top growth; the plant will spend the fall and winter expanding its root system as it gets ready to go forward with top growth in the spring. Grow the plants where they will have enough room to reach full size, and water regularly until the plants mature. Yes, hosta, bearded iris and peony are beautiful and low-maintenance plants. No, they do not thrive in the Lowcountry.

Bothered by Bambi and friends? Avoid roses, daylilies and hydrangea. Deer find them to be quite tasty.

Ferns: Shady areas seem to cry out for ferns. They provide a nice contrast to shrubs and flowering plants because of their overall shape and leaf structures. Choice ferns for our area include:

    - Holly Fern — Bold, coarse-textured evergreen leaves, up to 30 inches tall depending on species, best in full shade.

    - Autumn Fern Evergreen, copper-colored in spring, green in summer, 24 to 36 inches tall, light shade to full shade.

    - Southern Wood Fern Evergreen, 3 to 4 feet tall, light shade to full shade.

    - Boston Fern Evergreen that you probably bought this past spring in a hanging basket, plant in ground.

    Bulbs: Miss those beautiful tulips and daffodils you used to grow up north? How about hyacinth, crocus and snowdrops? Provide the extended period of chilling temperatures they need, and you can enjoy them here next spring. Store the bulbs in a refrigerator (not near any fruit, as the released ethylene gas from fruit reduces bloom). In January, plant them either in pots or in the ground in sunny areas. Plant the bulbs very close together but not touching, and enjoy the springtime show. Most people discard the bulbs after they flower and replace them with summer annuals.

    Vegetables: Continue to enjoy home-grown vegetables during the coming cooler temperatures. Consider planting beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce and spinach.

    My next column will in a Q&A format. Send me an email with your gardening questions by Oct. 15.

    Frank Edgerton is a Hilton Head Island resident, garden consultant and plantsman. He can be reached at