After getting in the leftover harvest from the vegetable garden and orchard, a part of me is always saddened at the prospect of the mostly dead garden in fall and winter. What makes the look of the faded summer splendor easier are a few flowers I’ve found bloom well late into fall. Most of these, especially the perennials, aren’t meant to provide much for pollinators. Beekeepers in Belgium try to get bees prepared for winter before September starts. When winter bees are spared from much of the hard work of nursing brood, converting nectar to honey and foraging, they will be in better condition when spring comes, and they need to raise brood again. Because of this, some of the flowers I plant for fall, are meant to be pretty, not productive. So, I do appreciate chrysanthemums and ivy, but don’t really put much effort into late blooming flowers for the benefit of bees. Wild pollinators, however, may benefit from your investment in autumn-flowers.
I have three Black Magic red rose bushes that keep blooming well into November. If you keep these in pots and put them in the greenhouse before the frost, you can keep them going so you have roses for Christmas. They have a long productive time. They will grow their first flowers in May-June, skip July and begin blooming again in August. This can go on well into November, depending on the weather. They resist the first frosts, but if you want them beautiful you should keep some fall/winter-roses in a greenhouse.
Lately I’ve been feeling cross with myself for not paying more attention before to my new favorite flower; the dahlia! It sounds so simple, everyone knows dahlia’s! And that’s why I never appreciated them. Every supermarket sells them here, just like common and fashionable tulips, lilies and other bulbs. This past May I went to the garden days in Beervelde, Belgium, and I bought some gorgeous dahlia bulbs.
The ones I got are a gorgeous Bordeaux flower with tube-like folded petals. Sadly, they aren’t of much use to pollinators, but they do look stunning in the garden. These begin blooming late in August and continue doing so until the first frosts.
Calendula and Tagetes can be used to keep some bright, warm orange colors into fall. Both, especially Calendula, are good bee-plants, and Tagetes can be used to control diseases on potatoes and other nightshade-crops. You could plant them during spring in the vegetable garden and keep them pruned until September, then, let them grow after you harvested food crops.
Zinnia’s are beloved by pollinators of all sorts. They come in many varieties and colors and are at their best in August. I like them because they begin blooming in July, when we have a dearth. They attract wild bees as well as butterflies.