Flowering longer than other garden asters, its 1-inch-wide pale lavender flowers have golden centers and are an important food source for a variety of insects.
Tatarian aster begins blooming in my garden in late September or early October and often stays in bloom into November. Provide this late bloomer with full sun and well-drained soil, and you will be rewarded with an abundance of late-season color.
Another late bloomer, Actaea simplex "Hillside Black Beauty," not only perks up the fall garden, but also puts on a dramatic display of near-black lacy foliage from spring until fall.
This fantastic perennial doesn't start showing signs of flowering until days begin to get noticeably shorter in the fall. Growing to a height of 4- to 6-feet when happy, Hillside Black Beauty forms dramatic clumps that are spectacular all season long, but it looks it's best when in bloom.
It produces small creamy-white flowers on long wand-like stems. Looking like bottle brushes floating above near black foliage, a well-established clump is a sight to behold. But the attributes of this season extender don't stop there: The flowers have a delightful fruity scent that seems to linger in the late-season air, especially in the evening.
Actaea prefers to grow in well-drained soil that is rich in organic content. Plant it in partial shade and out of the hot sun. The largest clump I have is on the north side of an evergreen planting, where it has a few hours of morning sun and a few hours of late afternoon sun.
To get the most bang for your buck when choosing garden plants, look for those that provide more than just one season of interest. Kirengeshoma palmata fits that bill nicely.
Native to the mountainous regions of Korea and Japan, this clump-forming perennial produces large 4- to 8-inch leaves beginning in late April. Shaped like maple leaves on tall sturdy stems, the foliage alone is a striking addition to any garden, but its fall floral display provides the icing on this cake.
In the fall, the plant produces abundant clusters of anywhere from six to 10 pendulous, buttery yellow, wax-like flowers on long wiry stems.
I think this plant looks its best just before the flowers actually open. For several weeks in early fall, kirengeshoma's buds slowly enlarge like miniature hot air balloons just before lifting off.
If you find you are not quite ready to put your garden to bed early in the fall, consider planting a few late-season bloomers to keep the party alive!
SEAN CONWAY is a nationally renowned garden designer and a consultant for the Target Corp.