Q: Dear G.G.,
In spring, I have a beautiful bleeding heart plant. Then in fall when it’s dying off and gone, I have a large blank spot in my garden. Is there a late bulb or plant that can take its place? The bleeding heart faces west and gets plenty of afternoon sun. Thanks for your help.
A: Perfect bulbs for blooms right now are spider lily (Lycoris radiata) and surprise lily, also known as naked lady (Lycoris squamigera). They send up foliage in the fall, which remains through spring, and then disappears. In August and September, spikes of flowers standing anywhere from 18-30 inches tall appear seemingly overnight without leaves. Spider lily has bright red glowers with long stamens that resemble spider legs. Surprise lily has pink, trumpet-shaped flowers. Both are easy to grow, spread into drifts, and last for generations. Bulbs are usually available by late spring. An excellent mail-order source is Old House Gardens (www.oldhousegardens.com).
Other perennials you might consider are old-fashioned mums like ‘Country Girl,’ ‘Venus,’ and ‘Single Apricot Korean.’ These are looser and more graceful in form than potted modern mums. Another fall bloomer I really like is white ‘Honorine Jobert’ Japanese anemone. And you can’t go wrong with the improved, domesticated goldenrods like ‘Golden Baby’ and ‘Fireworks’. They take almost no care, put on a nice fall show, and do not cause hay fever. A good mail-order source for all of these is Niche Gardens (www.nichegardens.com).