What’s Blooming in Early Fall?

Hosta 'Blueberry Cobbler'Hosta ‘Blueberry Cobbler’ is beautiful when it blooms in September.

As I said in my last post featuring two glorious fall gardens, there is no area of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens planted to peak now.  However, I have many beautiful fall-blooming plants, and the gardens are quite pretty in fall.  These perennials and shrubs make a daily walk through the property worthwhile even as the weather cools.  In this post I will show you what plants you can add to your garden to extend your blooms through September.  The next post will feature plants for October, and the final post in the series will feature November.

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Hosta 'Jimmy Crack Corn' & Hosta 'Blueberry Cobbler'Hosta ‘Blueberry Cobbler’ on the right and ‘Jimmy Crack Corn’ on the left.  Both manage to keep their leaves pristine through the summer.


Kirengoshoma palmataYellow wax-bells, Kirengoshoma palmata, are a perennial with the presence of a shrub.  The leaves add interest all season, and the unusual yellow flowers bloom in September.


Phlox paniculataI cut my native garden phlox, P. paniculata, down by half in June and have flowers into October.  Here you see the bed on 9/10 in full bloom with plenty of buds coming.  Today 10/21, a few flowers remain but the phlox is mostly done.


Phlox paniculataThe phlox starts with white at one end of the bed and progresses through many shades to dark pink at the other.  This native plant is great for butterflies, bees, and all kinds of native insects.


Sedum 'Mr. Goodbud' & Geramium 'Katherine Adele'This sedum, called ‘Mr. Goodbud’, was added this year to pick up the maroon blotches on ‘Katherine Adele’ hardy geranium.


Pulmonaria 'Diana Clare' & Japanese painted fernNo flowers here, but I love the way ‘Diana Clare’ pulmonaria and Japanese painted fern look in the fall.


Rudbeckia triloba & Lagerstroemia 'Delta Jazz'Native Rudbeckia triloba, ostensibly called brown-eyed Susan although I have never heard anyone use that name, with the purple leaves of ‘Delta Jazz’ crapemyrtle.  This rudbeckia self-sows prolifically.


Lobelia seedlingPerennial native  lobelias, both L. cardinalis (red) and L. siphilitica (blue) are very important to my garden in September, and sometimes they cross.  Here you see great blue lobelia peeking out from behind a lobelia seedling.  I often get white seedlings but never this amazing color.


Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' & Helleborus multifidus seedlingHellbore leaves surrounded by cascading ‘Aureola’ Japanese forest grass, a wonderful fall combo.


DSCN5140This is a perennial that fills the role of a shrub, but I have forgotten its name.  There is a close up of the flowers below.  Does anyone know what it is?  Note: Readers have identified this as PA native Doellingeria (formerly Aster) umbellata or flat-topped aster.  Although the habit of this aster is supposed to be upright, I think mine is flopping for lack of sun.  I am going to cut it back in June next year to see if I can improve its habit.  However, I like it anyway because the stems don’t fall completely to the ground.  For more information on this plant, click here.


DSCN5141flowers of native flat-topped aster


Hosta 'Summer Lovin' & Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'Hosta ‘Summer Lovin’ with native spigelia leaves and ‘All Gold’ Japanese forest grass.  All three look great from spring through fall, and the spigelia even rebloomed earlier this month.


Begonia grandisIt wouldn’t be fall without hardy begonia.  Not my best photo but it went by early this year after a torrential rain.


Begonia grandis 'Alba'This lovely clump of the white-flowered hardy begonia planted itself on the hill by the drive.


Anemone 'Honorine Joubert'A glimpse of what is to come: ‘Honorine Joubert’ Japanese anemone starting to bloom on 9/29.  It is in full bloom now.




Nursery Happenings:   You can sign up to receive notifications of catalogues, sales, and events at the nursery by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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39 Responses to “What’s Blooming in Early Fall?”


    possibly kalimeris?

  2. Tartarian aster ?

  3. Clara Berger Says:

    Could it be Boltonia?

    • Clara, A friend suggested Boltonia and I haven’t ruled it out. Do you have Boltonia and do the flowers and leaves look right to you? Looking at images on google the flowers look fuller than mine and whiter too. Maybe this is the straight species. I once planted Boltonia Snowbank in another location, maybe I moved it or it seeded. I have vague recollections of getting an unusual native plant at a plant sale and planting it in this location but the ID is lost in the mists of time. Carolyn

  4. Tim Calkins Says:

    Maybe Doellingeria umbellata.

    • Tim, I think you have it. The leaves are identical and even described as lanceolate-elliptic (what I was trying to say in my response to Leslie). The flowers are the right color off-white and loose looking like my plant. The only thing that gives pause is the description of the flower clusters as being flat-topped and the habit as erect. Mine flowers are loose and the plant cascades somewhat in a nice way. However, I also remember my plant as being an unusual native which this is. Here is a great description of the plant which I will add to the photo caption: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/wetland/plants/fltp_aster.html. Thanks, Carolyn

  5. Clara Berger Says:

    I’ve had Boltonia ‘Snowbank’ and I’d almost bet money that’s what it is (but not too much money). Also had a Boltonia from HPS Seed Exchange but don’t remember which one.

  6. Hi, my guesss is aster umbellatus. By the way, I enjoy following your blog all the way from Denmark. Marie

    • Marie, The internet is an amazing thing when a gardener in Denmark can help ID a native American wildflower for a gardener in the US. I think you are right, but the genus has changed from Aster to Doellingeria due to a distinction relevant to taxonomists only. Thanks for your help. Carolyn

  7. Carolyn, everything is looking wonderful in your garden. I especially think ‘Mr. Goodbud’ and ‘Katherine Adele’ are a good match.

  8. Carolyn – what a lovely post. I have been adding more phlox to my garden each year because it seems such a good doer on many fronts — great for pollinators, lovely fragrance, and long blooming (I find mine blooms into September even without cutting back earlier in the season). I can only plant phlox though in a fenced area near the house, as my local groundhogs seem very fond of phlox (also echinacea and astrantia). However, I am curious if you have more to say about your experience with Kirengoshoma. It’s a plant I’ve been admiring from afar, but I read conflicting things about how drought tolerant it is. My hillside gets awfully dry especially in a year like we’ve just had where rain was but a fraction of normal for most of August and September (and I don’t irrigate as a matter of principle and practicality). I also wonder how prone Kirengoshoma is to critter damage (as in the aforementioned groundhogs). Have you found it to have any downsides like flopping, spreading too fast, not spreadind fast enough, etc.? I really enjoy when you profile specific plants or plant families as it’s always so informative to see your in situ photos and get the low down from someone with practical experience in growing them.

    • Klaus, Deer love phlox but I now have a deer fence. If I don’t cut it back, it usually starts in early August or even July and is don by mid-September at the latest. We have an occasional groundhog but not enough to test what they do and don’t eat. Nothing has ever touched my Kirengoshoma. I have it growing in part shade (later afternoon sun) in a fairly dry area under a huge London plane tree, and it does not get any supplemental water. It does not flop or spread too much, mine seem to be clump forming and upright. It is a subtle plant flowerwise, and it does take up the space of a shrub. Carolyn

  9. Clara Berger Says:

    Obviously Doellingeria umbellata is the correct answer. So the question is –where did you find it?

  10. Your garden proves that shady gardens can have flowers all year long. My shady garden depends on berries and maple leaves for color. I don’t have many flowers.

  11. Great ideas–ones particularly suited to my customers are the pulmonaria, lobelia, “Summer Lovin'” hosta (with spigelia), and hardy begonias. Thanks for posting the photos and your thoughts.

    • Frank, I am always happy when someone gets some useable ideas from my posts, and especially great when the reader is a professional like you. I wish more nonbloggers would comment (I love blogger comments too but that’s often all I get) because I find it inspirational. Carolyn

  12. A lot of early October activity in your garden, Carolyn. Mine is nearly done with this week’s cold and rain. I love that pulmonaria and Japanese painted fern combination. I have both, so will try them next to each other. P. x

    • Pam, I hope to do another post with plants from mid-October through November. The pulmonaria looks evern better with the painted fern cultivar ‘Pictum’ which has a lot more silver in it. The fern in the photo is a painted fern seedling. Mine seed (or spore) prolifically. Carolyn

  13. Hi Carolyn! I like how you combine different plants. These combinations look good even now, in the fall.

  14. Wow, I love your phlox and pulmonaria! And what an interesting and beautiful colored lobelia! I didn’t know they crossed like that. I have yet to develop my shade garden in my new place. Thanks for all the lovely plant ideas!

  15. I hate to admit it but I like the flowering hosta best of all. A little darker color might be nice, but it is a showy plant!
    What a nice planting of phlox, the variety of colors really makes for a nice show.

    • Frank, Hosta ‘Blueberry Cobbler’ is one of my favorite flowering plants this time of year too. Although many hosta flowers are quite ordinary, there are some hostas that should be prized for their flowers, and Blueberry Cobbler is one of them. It also has a great habit and beautiful blue leaves during the main season. Carolyn

  16. debsgarden Says:

    Your fall garden is quite lovely. It must be a great pleasure to stroll through and see all these wonderful plant combinations. I was immediately taken by ‘Katherine Adele’ hardy geranium. I will have to do some research. I don’t see many hardy geraniums around here.

    • Deb, ‘Katherine Adele’ does have very pretty leaves and a great habit. However, it self sows like crazy and can be quite a menace. Before I knew what was happening it had infested a border across 5′ of grass from its location and was in the process of smothering the plants residing there. Now I am very careful to dig out all seedlings. Carolyn

  17. Your garden is quite colorful at this time of year. I have not even really looked at mine, but this weather has been a roller coaster. I came from snow in Romania to 70° here in Buffalo. It was supposed to be 78° in Romania and they had a blizzard. I did see phlox in bloom here though. Late for it in our area.

  18. Beautiful gardens in fall, Carolyn. I cut my phlox to put in vases and found it kept reblooming so I will have to remember to cut the phlox back. Of course the deer do it for me many times.

  19. What’s up, this weekend is pleasant in support of me, since
    this moment i am reading this fantastic educational article here at my house.

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