Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – The Garden in Fall

– Posted in: Garden Design

 Helenium Coppelia Sanguisorba Aug 29 09

Here in Pennsylvania, fall has made an early appearance, before summer ever had much of a chance to settle in. But that’s fine by me, because autumn is definitely my favorite time of year in the garden. Sure, I can appreciate the glories of spring bulbs and ephemerals, as well as the beauty of mid-spring to early summer borders, but my own gardens get a much later start, not looking like much until late July or early August. I’ve found that, in many ways, creating a great late-season display is much easier than orchestrating an earlier show, partly because it gives me a lot more time to get my garden cleaned up and the annuals and tropicals  planted. And well, there are just so many possibilities for working color into the later-season garden.

One of the most obvious features of the autumn garden in many climates is changing foliage colors. Granted, it’s not always the most dependable of features; in fact, it can be downright fickle. Shade or extended spells of cloudy weather can turn bright colors to pastels; cool and/or rainy weather can cut the show short or stop it from developing at all. But when it does happen, it’s a real treat. And it’s not just trees we’re talking about: color changes can brighten the border much closer to the ground, with plants such as yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima):

 Xanthorhiza simplicissima 1 Nov 22 07

…leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides):

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides Dichondra SF Fragaria x ananassa Variegat Rosmarinus Cotoneaster Variegatus Nov 2 07

…’Flying Dragon’ hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata):

Poncirus trofoliata Flying Dragon Nov 26 06

…’Redbor’ kale (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group):

Kale Redbor Salvia GD and LiR Tomato Yellow Pear Sept 28 07

…and Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii).

Amsonia hubrichtii Persicaria affine mid Oct 06

Then there are all of those cool flowering annuals and perennials that wait until later in the season to strut their stuff, such as variegated kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Persicaria orientalis ‘Shiro-gane Nishiki’):

Persicaria orientalis Shiro gane nishiki Sept 23 08

…Leavenworth’s eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii):

Eryngium leavenworthii Oct 4 08

…Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus):

Aster tataricus Heptacodium bark mid Nov 06

…gymnaster (Gymnaster savatieri):

Gymnaster savatieri Oct 14 08

…blue mist shrub (this is Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Summer Sorbet’):

Caryopteris Summer Sorbet Zinnia PO Melissa All Gold Sept 15 07 (2)

…autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale):

Colchicum autumnale Stachys Big Ears 2 mid Sept 06

…and monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii).

Aconitum carmichaelii Viburnum trilobum late October 05

Plants that wait until mid- or late summer to bloom often keep going well into the cooler months. A few of my favorites include Brazilian vervain (Verbena bonariensis):

Pennisetum Verbena Patrinia Solidago 2 Sept 9 07

…dahlias, such as ‘Bishop of Llandaff’:

Dahlia Bishop of L Imperata Physocarpus Monlo Oct 8 08

…and ‘Profusion Orange’ zinnias:

Front garden middle borders at Hayefield Oct 4 08

…as well as Joe-Pye weeds (Eupatorium), ironweeds (Vernonia), and Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida.

Eupatorium Rudbeckia Vernonia Aug 29 09

The return of cool weather can also coax some late blooms out of plants that normally flower best earlier in the season, such as roses (this is a hybrid rugosa known as ‘Moore’s Striped’):

Rosa rugosa Pennisetum Cassian Oct 18 07

…reblooming bearded irises, such as ‘Immortality’:

Iris Immortality Caryopteris 2 Sept 19 07

…and even ‘Kumson’ forsythia (Forsythia viridissima var. koreana).

Forsythia Kumson Aug 29 09

The abundance of ripening fruits adds another possibility for color in the fall garden – at least until the birds get them. Winterberries (Ilex verticillata) tend to last just a few weeks at most at peak ripeness:

Ilex verticillata Winter Red Oct 12 08

…while the fruits of peppers (Capsicum annuum), such as ‘Black Pearl’:

Capsicum annuum Black Pearl late October 05

…and ‘Fish’ hang around for much longer (until turned to mush by a few freezes):

Pepper Fish Oct 8 08

…and some berries, such as those of tea viburnum (Viburnum setigerum), hang on well into winter.

Viburnum setigerum 3 Sept 29 07

And then, oh glory, seedheads of all shapes and sizes – puffy ironweeds (Vernonia):

 Vernonia seedheads 4 Nov 3 07

…fluffy Joe-Pye weeds (Eupatorium):

Eupatorium seedhead Oct 8 09

…spiky purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea):

Echinacea purpurea 2

…gracefully dangling Dastisca cannabina:

Datisca cannabina Oct 4 08

…and quirky blackberry lilies (Belamcanda chinensis).

Belamcanda chinensis seeds early September 05

With all of these inspiring ingredients to work with, it’s easy to create combinations to suit any taste in colors, from bright and bold reds, oranges, yellows, purples, and pinks:

Mum Persicaria Sambucus Rosa KO Rhus Oct 8 08

Front garden combo at Hayefield Oct 4 08

Long Border Aug 29 09

Front garden at Hayefield Oct 4 08

Persicaria Taurus Canna Tropicanna Mum Tropaeolum Sept 9 07

…to a quieter palette of soft pinks, blues, silvers, and white.

 Pink border at Hayefield Aug 29 09

Stipa Asters Cornus SandG Solidago Sept 23 08

Leucanthemella Caryopteris Salvia argentea Salix alba sericea Sept 17 07 

Aaah, I love fall! I see that some of you other autumn aficionados out there have already been inspired to write about the fall garden; if you’re one of them, feel free to leave us a link to your existing post.

If you haven’t yet prepared a fall-garden post, how about sharing your own favorite plants and combinations for late-season color?

Are fall colors fabulous in your area this year, or do you have some favorite pics from past years? It’s show and tell time!

Are showy seedheads or berries a key feature in your own fall garden? Tell us which ones you wouldn’t be without.

Chard and Salvia LiR Oct 4 08If your garden fizzles out by early fall, don’t feel bad! We’ve all indulged in spring shopping sprees at our favorite nurseries, after all, and we know it’s tough to take a chance on late bloomers that are barely breaking dormancy when lush, full pots of beautiful early bloomers are singing their siren song. If you find that you’ve loaded up a bit too much on early color and are looking for ways to extend the show through the rest of the growing season, post pictures of the areas that need help and ask for suggestions from your fellow bloggers.

If you’re new to the GGW Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, here’s how it works: Write a post on anything related to designing for fall beauty on your own blog and give us the link below, or simply leave a comment if you don’t want to do a separate post. If you’ve written about the topic in the past, those links are equally welcome; it’s not necessary to create a new post to participate.

I’ll gather all of the links into one summary post for easy reference. It’ll go up on September 29, so please get your links in by the 27th if you want to be included in the wrap-up. I normally try to respond to your comments here and leave a note on each participating blog, but I might not be able to do that this month. Rest assured, though, that I appreciate the time that each of you puts into posting, and I surely will visit each link and read each post so I can write the end-of-the-month summary.

If you’re interested in checking out previous Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshops, you can find them here:

Outside Border at Hayefield Oct 12 08Paths and Walkways
Fences and Walls
Arbors and Pergolas
Color in the Garden
Container Plantings
Front-Yard Gardens
Stone in the Garden
Decks, Porches, and Patios
Garden Whimsy
Trellises and Screens
Water in the Garden
Sheds and Outbuildings
Incorporating Edibles
Kids in the Garden
Pets in the Garden
Wildlife in the Garden
Water-Wise Gardening
Labeling and Record-Keeping
Made for the Shade
Front Yards Revisited
Designing with Bulbs
Time in a Garden

Don’t forget that you’re all welcome to go back and add links to these older posts at any time.

And if you’re on Facebook and enjoy the Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshops, please visit our GBDW page and become a fan!

Front Garden at Hayefield Aug 26 09

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

Latest posts by Nancy J. Ondra (see all)

18 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Frances September 3, 2009, 6:14 am

Oh my goodness, Nan, what a treasure trove of shots in this post! If one had not joined the planting for fall bandwagon before reading, surely they will be inspired by your examples! Since I enrolled in the Piet school, the fall display has been topmost in the plant selection process. Currently being added are the amsonias, still small specimens but with lots of potential. I will certainly be joining in for this one! 😉

Great, Frances. I look forward to seeing what’s up this fall at Fairegarden!

Robin September 3, 2009, 8:39 am

What a beautiful post! You are the autumn garden expert!

Oh, just wait until we see what’s going on in other gardens. I’m hoping for a lively response this month.

Pam/Digging September 3, 2009, 9:25 am

Nan, I hardly know what to say. Your planting combinations are genius, and your photography skills are superb! I could re-read this post all day and not tire of it. Great post all around.

Thanks, Pam! I got a little carried away with the photos, but if you knew how many I *could* have put in….

MNGarden September 3, 2009, 10:41 am

Well, Nancy, you have certainly opened my eyes to new possibilities. Thanks.

That’s what we’re all about, Mother Nature!

Debra Lee Baldwin September 3, 2009, 1:43 pm

Nan, these are stunning. Love the contrasts of color and texture. Sadly, my SoCA garden looks its worst in fall, what with heat waves and water rationing. Yours is a breath of fresh air!

I wish I could send you some of our excess rain, Debra. Hopefully things will get better for you soon.

our friend Ben September 3, 2009, 3:07 pm

Beautiful and inspiring, Nan! Where was my brain, I had no idea there were reblooming bearded iris! I’ll have to keep an eye out for those!

Oh, I’m sure you knew; you’d just temporarily forgotten. Keep in mind that you have a friend with irises she can share.

Joanne September 3, 2009, 3:47 pm

What a lovely kaleidoscope of plants and flowers, we are moving into Autumn sooner this year too but I am trying to pretend it isn’t happening.

With nights suddenly in the 40s, it’s kind of hard to pretend fall isn’t here in my area. On the plus side, we may actually have a full week or more without rain, which would be a new experience for us this year!

LINDA from EACH LITTLE WORLD September 3, 2009, 5:57 pm

What an inspiration! And thanks for including more than close-ups, so we got a real sense of scale and the length and sweep of your gardens. It’s been a strange year; Japanese anemones and asters are already in bloom — even the ones I cut back early in the season.

Now that you mention it, Linda, I realize that many perennials here responded differently to summer pruning. With the weird weather this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got zapped by extra-early frost too, though I hope we don’t.

Chookie September 3, 2009, 8:51 pm

Alas, I’ve looked back six months and have nothing suitable, and I can hardly do autumn garden shots at the moment. Hemispherists! In revenge I will inform you all that my Brandywine and Principe Borghese tomato seedlings are just up today. Muhahaha!

In the meantime I’ll study the photos you’ve put into this post and consider what I could do that could be similar. I love the colour combinations, but the light levels are different here, as well as our species. (What are the plants in the topmost picture, please?)

Poor Chookie. I seriously considered adding an apology right at the beginning of the post to you and the others who are currently heading into spring. But then I figured that you’d have your revenge in reveling in all the excitement of a new gardening season – as indeed you are. So, I guess we’re even!

The orange flowers are ‘Coppelia’ sneezeweed (Helenium hybrid) and – I’m 99 percent sure – Sanguisorba tenuifolia.

Lois J. de Vries September 4, 2009, 1:35 pm

Hi Nan,

Here’s my entry for fall, the native plant, American Spikenard


Great to have you join us this month, Lois, with a very cool plant.

VP September 8, 2009, 11:12 am

Looks like we might be having an Indian Summer for the next few days at least, so I’m not sure if the fall colours which have just started to creep into this year’s picture will be put on hold or will deepen in time for this month’s GBDW.

However, I do seem to remember some really nice fall colour posts I did last year, so I’ll have them as my backup if I may?

Anything autumn-related is fair game, VP!

LINDA from EACH LITTLE WORLD September 8, 2009, 11:33 pm

Nan — Just posted about my early Fall color which is surprisingly pastel. My intense reds and oranges won’t be here until next month. Though this has been such a strange year weather-wise, that I guess I should be careful about saying what will happen when in the garden. Here’s a link to my post and I’ve linked to this site.

Quite right, Linda – this year, nothing is normal. Though, come to think of it, do we gardeners ever say that the weather is exactly what we expected? At this point, I’m not sure I even know what normal weather is anymore.

David September 18, 2009, 8:57 am

Hi Nan,
Great topic. Ironically, I wrote a similar post a couple of weeks ago, and here is the link:
Thanks for another great workshop!

Yvonne at Country Gardener September 19, 2009, 7:59 pm

Hi Nan: Great topic. I love everything about fall – flowers, ornamental grasses and color in trees and shrubs. I enjoy the late season so much that I’ve designed my own garden to be a fall showcase. I written about these autumn joys here:

Thanks so much for the opportunity to share.

Cheers, Yvonne

Mr. McGregor's Daughter September 22, 2009, 4:54 pm

Autumn is the best time in my garden. Here’s my post

Fantastic tour, MMD – thanks for joining us again!

Commonweeder September 24, 2009, 10:59 am

If ever I think I might run out of ideas, I know Nan Ondra is the person to turn too. I love the Garden Design workshops!

Craig @ Ellis Hollow September 26, 2009, 6:37 pm

Here’s some highlights of fall at Ellis Hollow from years past:

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