As summer fades, so do your summer-blooming perennials. However, just because all of your cheerfully-blooming flowers are beginning to dieback and look rather sad, it does not mean that your landscape cannot spring back to life with the colors of fall. As the leaves on the trees begin to change to brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds, numerous late-blooming perennials are also coming into their own glory.
Chrysanthemums have always been popular choices for fall color; however, do not feel as if you need to plant every color of mum known to man all over your yard. Mums are great, but there are various other fall-blooming plants that can be incorporated into your autumn landscape, too. Goldenrods are among my personal favorites. [See: In defense of goldenrod.] There are over one hundred species of goldenrod (Solidago), and there is sure to be one (or two or more) that will fit perfectly into your fall theme. Also, you can choose sneezeweed (Heleniumautumnale), which will really not make you sneeze. However, it can be found in rich colors of gold, orange, red-orange, and copper-red. There are also rudbeckias, including the popular black-eyed Susan that can add happy yellow daisy-like blooms to any autumn display. Another daisy-like flower that you can include in your fall landscape is the aster, also known as “michaelmas daisy.” Asters can be found in white, pink, blue, violet, and red.
To add some contrast to the daisy-like blooms of the heleniums, rudbeckias, and asters, you can add the ever-popular and easy-to-grow ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum, which has an upright growth pattern with blooms that change from whitish-pink to rose to deep maroon. (Leave the brown blooms on the plant through the winter months for interest during snows and heavy frosts and also for something on which the birds can feed.) Inject bright shots of red with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ with its blooms waving on gentle arched stalks rising from sword-like leaves.
Shrubs can also play an important part in the fall garden. Incorporate a mass planting of heather (Calluna vulgaris), which comes in several varieties with blooms in whites, pinks, purples, and reds and foliage in silver, green, gold, and bronze. Of course, a burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is magnificent with its flaming red foliage. Also, more hot and vibrant colors can be added by choosing shrubs that bear berries, such as nandina (Nandinadomestica) that also produces red berries and the European spindle tree (Euonymus europaea) with loads of small dark berries. These reds can be used as to contrast nicely with the bright golden foliage of the Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica).
Do not spend the early days of fall mourning the passing of summer. Instead, fill your garden with the brilliant golds and oranges and reds of autumn and celebrate the new life appearing in your autumn landscape.