September is upon us, hoorah, and we can get back to the business of gardening after the heat-driven ennui of high summer. At the garden center, plants tend to sell when they’re in bloom and not sell when they’re not, but here’s a secret: It’s perfectly fine to purchase something in a pot that isn’t flowering its head off or even absurdly lush.
If I’m browsing for perennials at this time of year, I’m much more interested in the vigor and health of the root system and the condition of the crown bearing next year’s buds than I am in the top growth. The roots should fill the pot but not be so congested as to be pot-bound.
September is a great month to lift and divide perennials already in the garden and to plant new ones, whatever their stage of ornament. Fussing with out-of-season perennials (or shrubs, trees and vines, for that matter) serves another purpose, teaching us that gardening is not a springtime endeavor but a year-round enterprise. You would be amazed at how many people have not grasped that.
No plant exemplifies the garden’s constancy better than a May-flowering perennial named false indigo, or baptisia. No sunny garden should be without one, and now would be a great time to get and install a young plant.