When most gardeners plan for a colorful fall garden the first plants which come to mind are chrysanthemums and asters. While an essential ingredient, they are hardly the only options available.
There are a number of fall blooming perennials which can color to the garden late in the season. The following are only a few. See Fall Blooming Perennials and Plants For Fall Color for more information on these and others.
Cimicifuga, a very late blooming perennial for the shade garden provides spike shaped white flower beginning in September. Its flowers bloom on tall stems which grow up from a finely cut fern like foliage.
Japanese Anemone is a pink or white, fall blooming perennial. Its flowers resemble those of poppies. The leaves of this 2-4 feet tall plant are lobed and dark green. They prefer light shade and a well-drained nutrient rich soil.
Eupatorium, or Joe Pye Weed is a pink flowering, native perennials which, as a taller plant, acts as a wonderful backdrop in the perennial garden.
Goldenrod produces an abundance of tiny yellow flowers which bloom in August and last throughout the fall. They prefer full sun but will thrive in dry and infertile soils.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is a wonderful, easy to grow, late blooming perennial. Also, called stone crop, it grows tight clumps which grow larger year after year. It’s flowers are tones of pink and red. Towards the end of fall they’ll turn a rusty brown which adds a bit of winter interest to the garden.
Black Eyed Susan produces bright yellow flowers on tall stems which bloom in summer and last though early fall. They can survive in even the most difficult garden conditions such as heat and drought. They are ideal for the full sun garden.
Remember the Ornamental Grasses
A plant which is often overlooked for its fall characteristics is ornamental grass. Maiden grass and fountain grass have great fall qulities. One particularly striking ornamental grass is the Pennisetum orientale, a hardy fountain grass. Flowers and seed heads of ornamental grasses last for weeks or months; many provide interest through the fall and winter. The wide ranging foliage of ornamental grasses provides additional interest the fall garden. Its texture can range from fine to coarse and form from softly arching or firmly upright. Many grasses have good fall color, changing to yellow, orange, red or purple before fading to tan or straw for winter.
Shrubs such as, deciduous azalea and hydrangea play an important role in the fall garden. Deciduous azaleas turn spectacular colors in the fall. The large flowers of the hydrangea shrubs, if allowed to dry on the plant, turn to wonderful shaded of faded blue and pink and last through winter. Summersweet (or Sweet pepperbush) is a fragrant fall blooming shrub which is suitable for the shade or woodland garden. A native to this country, summersweet also works well in the traditional shrub border. Other shrubs which provide the fall garden vibrant colorful foliage include; serviceberry, ciborium, smoke bush and witchhazel.
Trees such as the sugar maple and red oak are well known for their vibrant fall colors. They’re what we, in New England, count on each autumn to bring visitors to the region. Other fall standouts include the eastern redbud with its yellow or red foliage. The orange and red foliage along with its peeling bark makes stewartia an ideal tree for the fall garden. Red maples are another classic fall tree and are among the first trees to begin showing their fall color.
For the small garden, consider planting a Japanese maple, eastern redbud, flowering dogwood, smoke tree, or Hawthorn. These can all be under planted with small shrubs, asters, mums and other perennials.
The texture and rich green color of evergreen shrubs make them ideal as a backdrop for flowering shrubs or perennials. Some have twisting or weeping shapes and continue to provide the garden with interest through the fall and winter.