One of the best things about fall for gardeners is the chance to correct what’s not working. I want to move the bleeding heart where its normal summer dieback won’t look so conspicuous. And the amsonia, baptisia, Shasta daisies and meadow rue, which I’ve moved up into bigger and bigger pots, need to go into the ground. Early fall in our Zone 6 garden is a great time to dig, plant and move, especially when it comes to perennials.
And while I’m creating the new perennial bed, I’ll pay more attention to the holes I leave for annuals and summer bulbs. In the past those openings have been a hodgepodge of sizes, often in the front of the border. But the better design strategy, Plant Talk reminds us, is to be consistent with the shapes of those holes and to repeat them throughout the border from the front to the middle and back again. The designers of the Seasonal Walk at the New York Botanical Garden call their holes “batwings” and “peanuts,” depending on the shape.
That’s not to say that you need to make gaps identical or to arrange the sweeps of them the same way every time; that could be boringly predictable, and might look more suitable for a large-scale commercial planting. But the idea is to plan a bit more thoroughly for the color and height of the annuals you’ll likely use next year, and to allow enough room for an adequate show. So while the perennials (and a few shrubs) go in and out of their two-or-so-week period of bloom in spring, summer or fall, and often expand in girth or become irregular, the steady splashes of annual color will make the garden bed pop.