Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Color, Georgia Style

Some of my favorite flowers bloom in fall. Not only do they provide a much needed source of food for those migrating butterflies and hummingbirds but they also add some gorgeous splashes of color to the landscape. Here are a few of my favorites...


Georgia Aster (Aster georgianus) is a fabulous plant with its deep velvet purple flowers that bloom during October and November. It attracts all varieties of bees in our garden! This year we added three more plants because it is so spectacular. Sadly, the Georgia aster is diminishing rapidly in its native habitat and is only known in four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama). It is a state protected plant and a candidate for the federally threatened list. It is not often you see it blooming in the wild anymore. You can buy them at native plants sales (local sources: Georgia Native Plant Society, Nearly Native Nursery and Georgia State Botanical Garden) and if you live in its growing area they like dry-red clay banks with well drained soil so they make an outstanding addition to those challenging spots in the garden.


Another really fun plant, if you have the space, is the narrow-leaf sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) also known as the swamp sunflower. It gets really, REALLY tall. Reaching up to 12 or more feet to the sky. I have been told that if you cut it back in early July it will still bloom but not as tall. I might try that next year with one of my plants, but I love seeing its blooms against the sky. Plus it is great for those larger butterflies that fly higher. In October last year the 7 monarch butterflies that stopped over in our garden on their southward migration to Mexico spent a lot of time on them. You can see my post on the visiting Monarchs at Seven is the Magic Number. This summer the silvery checkerspot butterfly hosted on this sunflower and I had lots of caterpillars munching the leaves.


Another great aster that is just starting to bloom is the Downy aster (Symphyotrichum pilosus). This plant likes to grow in disturbed areas and there are several plants that have happily found a home along the transition area along the road in front of our wooded lot. It attracts a variety of pollinators from bees to flies to several sizes of butterflies. White is a good color for night time pollinators such as moths. This aster seems to serve both day and nigh pollinators.




One of my favorite grasses that shines in fall is the Pink Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). It is a great addition to our hill garden and along the dry creek bed. Insects love to hang out on the stems.


And, the light dances through the inflorescence and provides fabulous color and texture to the garden.


Another member of the aster family is Solidago or goldenrod. The Latin word 'solido' means to make whole and this herb was used in the ancient world as a healing remedy. Native American's called this plant "sun medicine".


It grows successfully in many soil conditions and is found blooming naturally and prolifically all along the roadside this time of year. It is a magnet for a variety of beneficial insects. This is the site alongside our property where it grows freely up to 8 feet high. I think it is lovely and the golden yellow makes me so happy when I drive or walk by it.


Can you believe goldenrod is considered a weed by most Americans? It only started being accepted as a garden plant in the 1980s. It almost achieved fame in the early 1900s. During WWI the price of rubber sky rocketed.  At the request of his friend Henry Ford, Thomas Edison was asked to find a domestic source to make rubber. He experimented with goldenrod, honeysuckle and milkweed. He found goldenrod showed the greatest potential as a way to produce rubber which it contains naturally in its leaves. Edison created a fertilization and cultivation process to maximize the rubber content in these plants. This project was never brought into production because the government decided to invest in new German technology that created rubber synthetically from coal and petroleum products. So goldenrod returned to its ordinary existence.


Today, I am joining Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, graciously hosted by May Dreams Gardens.


36 comments:

  1. Hi Neighbor....happy gbbd! Aside from all the beautiful flowers..what great pics!

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    1. Thank you Janie! I am so glad you dropped by today...it is wonderful to meet another fellow, regional blogger. There don't seem to be as many of us in zone 7/8 who are actively blogging.

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  2. Your October garden is just lovely. Happy Bloom Day.

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  3. Delightful...Love the skipper and other pollinator pics! it makes me happy seeing what a beautiful critter friendly garden you have...Gail

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    1. Thanks Gail! I've been working at adding natives to our garden over the past two years. It has been incredibly rewarding! I love discovering new insects that now call our garden home.

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  4. Happy Fall to you too, Karin. All the insects look happy and well fed, especially those little caterpillars. Nice captures of the critter.

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    1. Thanks Donna! The insects are busy producing the last generation of the season and getting ready for the winter dormancy. It is one of the most active times in my garden.

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  5. Happy GBBD! You have some very pretty asters I was unfamiliar with. Does the swamp sunflower spread aggressively?

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    1. The swamp sunflower will spread easily. I have the space so it isn't an issue for me but it may be more difficult to control in a smaller garden. Glad you enjoyed the asters! I just picked up another one today...aster carolinianus.

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  6. That aster is so pretty, and I liked reading about this unusual beauty. I also liked the downy aster. It looks like the pollinators love it! Happy fall to you!

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    1. The asters are definitely the stars of the fall garden. I keep adding more every year, especially since they have such a long bloom season.

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  7. I do love goldenrod but I have quite a lot of it. It is past now but the asters are hanging in for Bloom Day. Love all the blooms and the caterpillars as well.

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    1. Thank you Layanee! I am savoring each fall day since I have a sneaky feeling that we are in for a cold winter.

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  8. Thanks for all the info on Goldenrod. I've always loved it, even when people said they didn't like it because they thought they were allergic to it. I hope the general population is finally realizing that it's not the Goldenrod giving them problems. Plus, it's an excellent cut flower! Happy GBBD!

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    1. It is amazing how quickly a plant can get a bad rap just from a case of mistaken identity. I agree, that goldenrod is finally being recognized for the great plant that it is.

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  9. You have some lovely choices of Fall bloomers. I love the Goldenrod also. It does grow as weeds here too, but looks great when there are large clumps of it blooming at once.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. The goldenrod certainly brightens up the roadsides during the fall. I love seeing butterflies fluttering around them as I drive by.

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  10. Great post and great pictures. You have many of the same plants blooming now that I have, here in central North Carolina. I do cut back my swamp sunflowers in late June, and they do bloom terrifically. Mine are probably 6 feet tall after being cut back, which is more to scale in my garden. Love that native aster - I am going to look for it locally.

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    1. OK, I will definitely try cutting them back and see how it does. In our garden they tend to fall over from rain or wind when they get so tall. Good luck finding the Georgia aster. I think a local native plant nursery/society or botanical garden will be your best bet.

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  11. Autumn looks beautiful in Georgia, Karin. You have some lovelies in your garden.

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  12. A few years ago I had Georgia aster in my garden -- before a really wet winter took it out -- and the deep color purple is fabulous. I need it in my garden again.

    You asked about the hummingbirds -- I haven't seen any around for a few weeks so our residents must be on their journey south.

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    1. I lost some plants this year too because of all the rain. My asters are on a sloped garden which seems to suit them very well...drainage is key.

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  13. PS Great shots of the pollinators on the downy aster and goldenrod!

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  14. Just catching up....so much beauty in your fall garden Karin...I love Pink Muhly grass and need to find just the right spot for it.

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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