Sunday, September 11, 2011

Autumn Beauty for Your Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

For those of us who garden in the Front Range, it seems we find that our growing season is just not long enough. Our late and early frosts often challenge us to find plants that can produce quickly and will sustain as long as possible.

Some of these plants such as tomatoes are warm weather plants and begin to decline as the cool temperatures begin to arrive. One way to extend your garden enjoyment is to add plants that often do their best toward the end of the summer season, such as sunflowers, pumpkins and gourds.
This year, I chose a sunflower variety called ‘Autumn Beauty’.  Autumn Beauty features both bi-color and solid colors in the mix.  This morning (08-31-11) the first flower of this batch opened and it was a lovely bi-color of bronze and deep orange yellow. 

There are many types of Sunflowers to choose from including dwarf sizes all the way up to the “giant” that can reach 6 ft or taller, and all shades of the yellow, red and orange color family. 

 You may notice that sunflowers can attract insects such as aphids. This group did endure some bug attacks from aphids and flea beetles earlier in the season but managed to survive. Sunflowers can also attract ants and wasps and this is because the leaves of most sunflowers secrete a nectar type substance that can attract beneficial insects which can then prey on the destructive insects.
In addition to adding color beauty to your garden, many people grow sunflowers for the added treat of the seeds once the petals dry and fall off.  If you have problems with squirrels and birds raiding your garden for food, you may need to cover the heads with netting to prevent them harvesting the seeds before you are able to do so.

If you enjoy growing flowers and want some with very showy blooms and edible seeds, sunflowers will be a welcome addition to your garden. Here are some fact sheets available with growing tips that you might find helpful: