The Third Garden: Cool Season “Annuals” for Fall

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The Third Garden: Cool Season “Annuals” for Fall

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

The Visitor Center is decked out in its fall attire with a new suite of plants that like cool weather and can tolerate frosts and mild freezes. In fact, some of these plants can survive the winter and rebloom next spring. Yes, Greater Kansas City’s climate allows for a third garden that can often look very colorful through Thanksgiving and even into December. On mild winters we have flowers on occasion throughout winter.


This image is of a container underplanted with cool-loving annuals including cultivars of stocks, pansies and lettuce. This is planted beneath a hardy Queen Palm (Syagurus romanzoffianum)– not hardy for the entire winter but tolerant of cold. Not all palms (and annuals) are tropical and tender to a freeze.

The prime characters of the above image include Mariposa Peach’ Pansy. New cultivars of pansies are increasingly hardy and usually overwinter well if planted in the ground. Those in containers are less hardy. Be sure and notice the lightly sweet aroma of pansies!

Vintage Copper Stocks are another hardy annual for fall. I enhanced the experience of several visitors yesterday by making them smell this gem: the flowers emit a rich, spicy scent!

At the entrance to the Heartland Harvest Garden is a patchwork of lettuces, cabbage and pansies. Yes, all are edible too! The bronze foliage is ‘Deer Tongue’ Lettuce; the lime green foliage is ‘Black-seeded Simpson’ Lettuce and the cabbage in the middle is ‘Ruby Perfection,’ a new Plant of Merit and outstanding edible and ornamental.
In the beds in front of the Visitor Center you will also see the marvelous ‘Ruby Perfection’ cabbage, along with companions of lettuce and diascias
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The pink flower is the Diascia or Twinspur, a relatively new cool season annual from South Africa (Many of our best new cool season annuals are cultivars of native South African wildflowers). We have had it take 17F without hurting it a bit! The coppery foliage is ‘Tomahawk’ Lettuce.
Nagoya White Cabbage is a most ornamental of cabbages and beautiful in the garden. Most cabbages are fully hardy to 10F!
Here is another cultivar of Diascia: ‘Red Ace’ (it’s pink!) perfectly paired with our favorite lettuce ‘Merlot’ (also the lettuce in the first image). Look for this stunning combination along the ramps from the Visitor Center Terraces to the Dogwood Walk.
This colorful cool season foliage is of ‘Five Colored Silver’ Beet (Chard). When backlit like this shot, it glows with colors from yellow and green to bronze, red and purple! It is delicious too.
Pansies are the staple of the cool season garden and come in a beautiful array of colors and patterns. This true yellow is ‘XXL Golden’ Pansy.
This pansy with a “face” is ‘XXL Red & Yellow’ Pansy, which reminds me of the old fashioned varieties my grandmother adored.
Violas are close relatives of the pansies and I’m sure you can recognize that pansies and violas are all in the same Genus with perennial Violets. This is the ‘Antique Gem Purple’ Viola. Violas often overwinter and bloom exceedingly well next spring.
Snapdragons are another great cool season flower and also can overwinter in sheltered places or after mild winters. This is Montego Purple’ Snapdragon but it looks more pink than purple to me.
This is a cultivar of one of South Africa’s most beautiful wildflowers Osteospermum; called “Osteos” for short. This stunning cultivar is ‘Soprano Vanilla Spoon.’ Osteos take cold well but should be protected from hard frost.
New hybrids of the annual Phlox (Phlox drummondii) from the Southern Great Plains have resulted in some really cold hardy new cultivars. This is Intensia White’ Phlox sparkling against a yellow mum. All the “Intensia” phlox are very hardy — blooming well into December.
Come out to Powell Gardens and explore the flowers of the cool season and get ideas for what you can add to your garden or containers for fall. It is not too late to still enjoy 6 to 8 weeks of color! You’ve just two more weekends left to enjoy the fabulous Chapungu sculpture display as well.