June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Plant a bright blanket of color for fall gardens

By Lorraine Barnett

Garden Nook

Are you ready to blanket your autumn garden with color? Today, we have the perfect colorful flowers to do just that. In this Garden Nook, learn all about the gaillardia (gail-LAR-dia) perennial in bloom now. All you need is a sunny spot, a container or a small space in the garden.

Blanket flower

Gaillardia may seem like an odd name for a flower, but that’s because the name comes from the French botanist Gaillard de Clarentonneau, according to the U.S. Forest Service. However, as the Native American flower became more naturalized in vast prairies and hillsides, it is believed that the gaillardia flower became known as the blanket flower, probably named for the spread of bright yellow and red blossoms resembling shades of the brightly colored Native American blankets. Gardeners began hearing about the prairie flowers early in the 1800s.

A bright space

Do you have a tiny spot in the garden that needs a burst of color? Perhaps you need to change the flowers in a sunny windowsill or you have a flower pot that is ready for a boost of color. Maybe a garden patch has gone to seed for the summer. Well, now you can tuck one or three gaillardia plants in to stretch your summer blooms until frost.

Prep your garden beds

The season of gardening is not over yet. So many flowers and foliage plants are still waiting to be seen, purchased and appreciated. And among these is gaillardia. Thankfully, this plant is not fussy about its soil. In fact, it will do better in average soil that is not too rich.

Simply prepare a container or garden spot. Clear the weeds and add some new topsoil or some compost. Dig the soil under with a spade, cultivating the soil as you go. Be sure there is good drainage because gaillardia won’t survive winter with wet feet. Did I mention the need for a sunny spot? To maintain plants, trim back spheres (cut and dry them; they resemble lollipops). Mulch for winter. Plant now so that roots can become established for next year.

When using seeds, allow light for germination.

Beauty all season

Golds, oranges, yellows, reds and browns. Gorgeous daisy-like gaillardias come from the Aster family of plants and are so cheerful with many color combinations. They bloom beautifully for weeks. First, they develop green flower buds camouflaged inside a mass of dense green foliage. These new buds are charmingly soft and fuzzy, often tipped with reddish brown and a flat center hiding beneath. Soon, petals stretch out and grow in full color and as the blooms mature.

The centers become full and round, each variety having unique colors. As flowers age, petals drop and beautiful spheres stand among the blossoms.

Even though we are headed into a cooler season, gaillardia will happily bloom until frost. Since most are perennials, they will grow anew next year. Just be sure to buy a hardy perennial variety, not an annual. Generally, the hybrid cultivars can be quite hardy for zone 5 in Ohio.

Barnett is a greenthumb gardener from Westfield Center.