My garden hasn’t had a frost yet, but it certainly is coming in the next two weeks. This is when I begin looking around to see what might keep blooming, despite a few nights of light frost. Any plants that can keep showing a flower into November are well worth having in duplicates.
Of the three plants that keep blooming well into November in my Zone 6a garden, the most impressive is an older polyantha rose, ‘The Fairy’ (four x three feet / 120 x 90 cm, Zone 5), bred in England in 1932. It has generous bunches of small, light pink 1.5-inch (3.5-cm) flowers with up to 25 petals and a mild apple fragrance. ‘The Fairy’ is a perpetual blooming rose with arching wands of glossy dark green foliage and is never without a generous display of blossoms. It tolerates part shade and is disease resistant. I don’t know what makes ‘The Fairy’ so resilient in frosty air, but the flowers remain fresh and vibrant when all other late roses are pinched and withered in the cold.
An attractive companion for ‘The Fairy’ is a low-growing calamint (Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta, 18 x 24 inches / 45 x 60 cm, Zone 5), which starts blooming in late summer with tiny pale mauve flowers, so small they could be described as Lilliputian. However, there are such a multitude of tiny blooms crowding the upright stems that the entire plant clump looks like it’s in bloom. The foliage has a pungent mint scent, and the flowers produce enough potent nectar to drive late bees into a frenzy of attention.
The third is the familiar golden corydalis (Corydalis lutea, eight x 10 inches / 20 x 25 cm, Zone 4), which thrives on neglect and makes lovely ferny mounds with constant sprays of egg yolk-yellow locket flowers. Golden corydalis seeds freely in odd corners, and is particularly good for dry shade and other inhospitable places. Where it’s unwanted, its shallow roots are easily pulled with minimal effort. The bright yellow blooms are beautiful alongside the mauve calamint wands, and together these two make charming November companions to ‘The Fairy’ rose.
It’s not over until the snow flies, and the garden is brightly extended into November with these three frost-resilient plants.
Corydalis seeds are often moved by ants, which is one reason they seem to pop up around the garden. It’s a welcome bit of serendipity in a shady yard.