Most Read: Local

Posted at 10:28 AM ET, 09/14/2012

September gardening: the solution is di-vine

Percent of average precipitation over the last 30 days (High Plains Regional Climate Center)
With all the water we have received over the last 30 days from the District and points east, it’s a whole new world out there. To those of you west of town on the short end of the stick: my sympathies.

For some of us the drought is finally over and for most of us the days of actually wanting to return to the garden are upon us. Cooler conditions and less humidity look to be here to stay, at least most of the time. My problems upon returning to the garden are the inevitable dead spots.

I have a grove of Joe Pye Weed, which is a perennial that grows to about eight feet in height and takes the wind. After this year’s gales, who can complain about that? It has huge heads of tiny purple flowers that bloom all through the summer delighting the butterflies, almost reminiscent of Autumn Sedum. But the problem is that my grove appears pretty sad with dead looking heads on these mammoths.

Cutting the Joe Pye Weed down would just produce a big hole in the garden and cut short their vegetative strengthening for the next season. After weeks of contemplation, the solution to the dead spots came to me as I looked out my window at the flocks of hummingbirds: an annual blooming vine.

Cardinal vine
Yes, my cardinal vine brings in hummers like nothing I have ever seen. I have plenty of neighbors who put out those garish hummingbird feeders but my garden draws the crowd.

What is great about this vine is it can be grown from seed that is planted directly in the garden in the spring. It is fairly slow to take off which should give my Joe Pye time to shine.

About this time of year the vine goes wild shinnying up just about anything and is covered with plenty of bright red trumpet flowers perfect for feeding hummingbirds and quite a few butterflies too. The foliage is also a treat as the dark green, deeply-notched leaves are a great backdrop to the flowers. All I will have to do is pop two or three seeds in the ground and I should have quite a show. I can’t wait!

Hyacinth bean vine
Another star vine that really shows off this time of year is the hyacinth bean vine. The vines are a little sturdier than the cardinal flower and the broadleaf green foliage has a purple vein to set it off. But the real delight is sprays of sweet pea like flowers that cover it. Butterflies are drawn to these too. Once its long-lived flowers are spent, dark burgundy bean pods form and are quite decorative as well. This vine will try to take over but can be whacked back with impunity - so don’t be afraid.

For fragrance this time of year you can’t beat the autumn blooming clematis. It does not need to be close to the walkway or porch as its scent permeates the yard and not in an overwhelming way. It is so hardy it is often found growing in the wild.

As for those other holes that inevitably show up this time of year, I will be popping in a few mums to brighten up the garden in a hurry. I may even follow up with a few pansies and hope the deer don’t catch on.

It would be great to hear what your remedies are for the late summer garden doldrums, so please share with us. This if finally the time of year we don’t have to face garden work with trepidation. I will be back in a couple of weeks to talk about transplanting since fall is a great time to do that. Until then, garden like you mean it!

By  |  10:28 AM ET, 09/14/2012

Categories:  Latest, Gardening

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company