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):
…leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides):
…’Flying Dragon’ hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata):
…’Redbor’ kale (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group):
…and Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii).
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’):
…Leavenworth’s eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii):
…Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus):
…gymnaster (Gymnaster savatieri):
…blue mist shrub (this is Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Summer Sorbet’):
…autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale):
…and monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii).
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):
…dahlias, such as ‘Bishop of Llandaff’:
…and ‘Profusion Orange’ zinnias:
…as well as Joe-Pye weeds (Eupatorium), ironweeds (Vernonia), and Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida.
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’):
…reblooming bearded irises, such as ‘Immortality’:
…and even ‘Kumson’ forsythia (Forsythia viridissima var. koreana).
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:
…while the fruits of peppers (Capsicum annuum), such as ‘Black Pearl’:
…and ‘Fish’ hang around for much longer (until turned to mush by a few freezes):
…and some berries, such as those of tea viburnum (Viburnum setigerum), hang on well into winter.
And then, oh glory, seedheads of all shapes and sizes – puffy ironweeds (Vernonia):
…fluffy Joe-Pye weeds (Eupatorium):
…spiky purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea):
…gracefully dangling Dastisca cannabina:
…and quirky blackberry lilies (Belamcanda chinensis).
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:
…to a quieter palette of soft pinks, blues, silvers, and white.
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.
If 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:
Paths and Walkways
Fences and Walls
Arbors and Pergolas
Color in the Garden
Stone in the Garden
Decks, Porches, and Patios
Trellises and Screens
Water in the Garden
Sheds and Outbuildings
Kids in the Garden
Pets in the Garden
Wildlife in the Garden
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!