Around the Island

Gardening with Galligan: The flowers of fall

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | A lovely display of Montauk daisies, enjoying the cooler days of autumn.
CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | A lovely display of Montauk daisies, enjoying the cooler days of autumn.

How wonderful and what a treat this cooler weather! And it feels like it’s long overdue, although technically speaking it’s probably right on time. No matter! In any event, it’s so very welcome. And, of course, all the plants are perking up, just as grateful as we are, especially the annuals, more susceptible than the perennials to endless hot/damp days.

It’s a good time of year to keep a careful eye on your roses. Not to feed them, you certainly don’t want to encourage growth, but to be sure to enjoy them. Cut the center bloom as soon as it comes close to ending, thus giving the four or five surrounding buds their time and space to bloom. You should feel free to cut them for vases in the house, thereby giving the plant less work to do but more space should it be feeling strong.

Last December 9, and I remember the date because I had company coming, I did indeed cut roses to bring in for the table. So if you have an appropriate spot, by which I mean at least half-sun and protection from the wind, you still have lots of time before humming “Last Rose of Summer.”

If you have asters, and I do, they offer a terrific contrast, color-wise. The dwarf asters are, of course, finished by now but the Michaelmas daisies are in full bloom. The flowers are sky-blue atop trouble-free foliage and are valued for their role as a nectar source for butterflies. They should bloom almost until frost. And remember that you need not be a helpless victim to sudden cold weather. It true that weekenders are indeed vulnerable, but year-rounders shouldn’t hesitate to bring the baby blanket outside on a worrisome night and tuck in one or more favorites.

Along with the red roses and blue asters we have, of course, the hard to kill even if you beat it with a stick, Leucanthemum vulgare, better known as the ox-eye daisy. These flowers are native to Europe but were introduced here in America and my! Are they ever pleased to be here! They too belong to the Asteraceae family and of course are not daisies. One of these days I’m going to take the time to name the gazillion plants or find a web site that does it for me that are called the something-or-other daisy and are not, of course, daisies. It will be a very long list.

And it will include probably the best known: the Montauk daisy or  Nipponamthemum nipponicum, native to as its name suggests the coastal regions of Japan. The blooms are two-inch round and daisy-like, blooming profusely in late summer through early autumn. They’re low maintenance, attract butterflies and are more than usually hardy, always a plus. So enjoy these late bloomers, all prolific enough to cut at will for indoor enjoyment.

For next month’s column I’ll give some thought to what to do when we come indoors, and you know that day will be here relatively soon. I must confess that I always welcome it, along with the Island’s quiet when all our guests have gone.