Thinking Outside the Mum

Pumpkins and hay bales and mums, oh my! This Farmer truly loves fall and even has a heart for autumnal décor. I guess growing up in a small, agrarian based community like Hawkinsville set that into my psyche, for scarecrows and leaves and cornstalks bound with orange bows are reminiscent of childhood festivals, street adornments, and farm entrances. In a town where the land and its produce are the bread and butter of said town, the harvest time is a celebration of the crops and liberation from the heat. There is no better way to celebrate than to decorating.

Though I will always have a soft spot in my heart for fall decorations, one of the staples of this scheme, the mum, is a stalwart of autumn but doesn’t always have to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love mums, but for a change, I like to “think outside the mum” sometimes and let some other powerhouse perennials take center stage. Plus, there are dozens of varieties of the Chrysanthemum genus that should garner some praise as well. I think once your garden brims with the buds of other fall delights, then thinking outside the mum might just become a new way of thinking.

Herbs and veggies …plant combos of rosemary, parsley, sages, and thyme for luscious arrays of beautiful scents and foliage contrasts. I love to use Lemon Thyme, Golden Variegated Sage, and Parsley for borders and containers and then flavor my autumn dishes with their lovely essence. Rosemary of course is the backbone of the garden and flavor extraordinaire, but this evergreen herb makes a gorgeous green hedge and backdrop to a border or container composition. Mix Swiss chard, lettuces, mustards, and even a cabbage or two within your planters and beds for a potager or kitchen garden of your very own. Cardoon spp. or artichokes also fair well in the Southern garden through fall and into winter.

Now for some flower power…I rely on snapdragons, Mexican salvia, Ryan’s daisies, Mexican mint and marigold, and Puerto Rican salvia to send off summer into a glorious fall. Plant all these in the spring for a fabulous fall and a fabulous fall it shall be! Old fashions such as asters, Joe Pye weed, and cosmos make for ever delightful bouquets and garden blossoms as well. Look for a fun old faithful such as the ‘Rachel Jackson’ aster – a descendant of the grand dame’s garden at the Hermitage itself. Light purple flowers dance on pretty green stalks and bloom well into the fall when nothing else seems to be blooming. Your fall flower bed can truly be the swan song of the garden with proper planning and planting.

Think green and shades in between. Artemisia, Ajuga, crotons, and Ipomoea (sweet potato vine) make for foliage haute couture. Try some of the darker colors of sweet potato vine such as ‘Blackie’ for a deep aubergine flair in the garden. Huechera (coral bells )cultivars such as ‘Key Lime,’ ‘Crème Brulee,’ and ‘Crème de Menthe’ are gorgeous mixed with other greens, ivy, and  pansies, cabbage, or violas. Eucalyptus makes for striking blue green foliage in the fall and last well into winter in the Deep South. A palette of cool blues from Eucalyptus and salmon rusts from huecheras will make a splendid tableau for your fall garden flair.

Do think outside the mum…with a list of fun flowers to choose from, “mum”  may not be the word for this fall; and from this Farmer’s garden to yours, happy fall, ya’ll!