The Garden's Golden Season: How to Achieve a Fabulous Fall Finale
In their 2-acre sloped yard in St. Helens, Oregon, longtime gardeners Tamara Paulat and David Pinson wanted to create a landscape that's every bit as colorful in autumn as it is in spring and summer. "It's easy to relegate the fall season to cleanup, but I wanted more," Paulat says. With that in mind, they chose plants and trees that look their best late in the season, including Japanese maples, golden grasses, and flowering perennials. They take a laissez-faire approach, rarely deadheading or pruning, and leaving most seed heads on into winter to provide food for birds. Evergreen shrubs and large grasses also ensure that planting beds look good all year long.
Fall Color in Many Forms
Fall Garden Design Tips
In addition to planting for fall color, Paulat and Pinson also pay attention to textures and shapes. Contrasting foliage creates a more interesting mix. And using upright plants with shorter grasses creates varying levels in the garden, which makes for a more dynamic landscape than having everything about the same height. For example, the couple planted low-growing sedums paired with smaller grasses along path edges. Behind these plants, rounded gray-green sage, spiky variegated yucca, and wispy deergrass step up in height.
A yard that's as densely planted as this one needs some structure to break up the foliage. Paulat and Pinson used a series of trellises to do the trick. They also planted in repeating groups to help tie the garden together. In fall, certain plants with brightly colored foliage serve as focal points, leading the eye to destinations in the garden. One of the most eye-catching is the flaming orange foliage of a 'Sango-Kaku' Japanese maple, which highlights the firepit and seating area.
Garden Design Strategy: Water Smart
Paulat and Pinson don't water often; instead, they've designed the yard to get the most out of rainwater. Berms and swales on their property help direct rainwater to plants that need it.
Berms: These mounded or raised areas of soil provide well-draining planting spaces. They help direct water away from plants that need more drainage.
Swales: Depressed areas of land, swales are strategically worked into the base of slopes to retain water and direct it to plant roots.