That is exactly what I am doing. I am now ordering spring flowering bulbs as well as seeds that I will plant in the autumn for spring. I know that our temperatures right now are higher than our real fall cool down so may seem weird to plan for spring now, but there are reasons for it.
Bulbs need to be cooled for about 10 –12 weeks if you live in horticultural zones, 8, 9, or 10. We are zone 9A. The bulbs need a consistent 38-45 degree temperature in a dark place. I use the refrigerator in my garage that is known as my “overflow” fridge. I have been ordering a narcissus mix (or daffodils if you prefer to call them) that is especially selected for our southern region. I usually do not plant them until December or January. Our soil never really freezes solid, but I want it to be cool when I plant those bulbs. I have also ordered alliums, iris, and species tulips to precool and plant.
Now is also a good time to order flower seeds as well. There are certain flowers that do extremely well if they are planted in the fall. I plant Orlaya grandiflora in October. It comes up right away and stays about six inches tall throughout the entire winter and then, when spring comes, it spurts and is flowering by April. It is a beautiful Queen Anne’s Lace type of flower with bright white petals. Ammi majus is like a giant version of Queen Anne Lace. It gets around four feet tall with large umbrella shaped blossoms. Both Orlaya and Ammi majus are known as umbellifers – plants that have umbrella like blossoms. There are horticulturists who are umbellifer specialists and love those type of flower heads. Neither Orlaya nor Ammi has a common name that is in popular use. Sorry.
I also plant Borage in the fall. Borage can be viewed as an herb or a flower. As an herb, its cucumber flavored leaves are used in cocktails or salads. As an ornamental plant the small blue flowers are bee magnets. In England, Borage is used as a garnish in Pimm’s Cup, one of the Brit’s favorite summertime drinks.
I also plant sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) in October. In Britain, that is the traditional time to plant them and with our (usually) mild winters, it works here. I plant mine in a large container with a trellis for them to twine to. Unfortunately, that devastating hard freeze that we had in December killed mine this year, but every other year I have had an early crop of fragrant sweet peas.
Now is the time to order those seeds as well for spring planting if you wish to plan ahead. There are many reputable online seed companies. In South Carolina we have one of the oldest seed companies in the United States. Park Seed Company was founded in 1868. They were originally in Pennsylvania, but they are now located in Greenwood, South Carolina.
Of course, right now, our gardens are looking a little shopworn. We need that late October or early November cool down to really help our plants to come back for one last hurrah. Don’t be afraid to put down another layer of mulch or compost. I have been composting in the fall to allow nutrients to be absorbed into the soil. I can see where my plants are so I do not smother seedlings and sprouts as I possibly might in the early spring. Rosebushes in particular like to have their roots covered in nice rich compost or mulch.
Speaking of roses I have received emails from various rose companies that their plants are available to re-order for spring. With our mild winters, you could plan roses now.
Fall is the best time of the year to plant any kind of shrubs or ornamental trees. They will have the entire winter to acclimate to their new location and develop strong roots before our hot and humid summer. Sometimes it is difficult to find shrubs and other perennial plants in our region since so many growers produce plants for the northern spring market. There are some local nurseries who are recognizing our unique growing conditions so look around if you wish to add to your garden in the more favorable fall season.
I am looking forward to our fall cool down and the chance to plant my seeds for spring flowers.
It will also be nice to get back on my back porch and relax a bit without feeling like I am in a steam bath.