In autumn trees once again come into prominence, showing off rich golds, purples, and reds. Closer to the ground, skillful gardeners keep the color coming with well-selected shrubs and perennials. Mums and asters are classics, but 'Autumn Joy' sedum has earned a place in nearly every autumn garden. Ornamental grasses are also at their most gorgeous now, especially when backlit by the slanting golden light of an autumn afternoon.
If continually weeded, watered, and deadheaded, many annuals and roses will continue to bloom until frost.
While doing fall cleanup, don't be too quick to cut down some of your favorite plants. Those grasses, for example, are covered with a heavy frost, and sedum flowers will dry right on the stalk. Experiment by leaving certain flowers up during the winter months to appreciate their sculptural effect.
At their best in summer, warm-season annuals such as coleus (in center) continue right up to the first frost, adding bolts of color into early autumn. For more color from annuals, plant cool-season types, such as snapdragons and pansies, which keep going even after frost.
Ornamental grasses take their place in the fall landscape. The seed heads of maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus') are understatedly beautiful. Grows 4-7 feet tall; full sun. Zones 5-9.
Another Japanese maple, 'Fireglow,' burns brilliant red. Japanese maples grow 10-20 feet high. Zones 5-8.
Although they peak in late summer, purple coneflowers take on a new, more spare, dimension in autumn. The seed heads also attract goldfinches. Grows 2-4 feet high; full sun. Zones 3-8.
Fountain grass is the moody beauty among ornamental grasses. The seed heads of this purple fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Atropurpureum') are buff-colored, but other fountain grasses produce seed heads in creamy white, pink, red, brown, or nearly black. Grows 1-7 feet; full sun. Zones 5-10.
Black-eyed Susans come in both annual and perennial forms. Both shine in late summer to early autumn and are wonderful cut flowers. Grows 2-4 feet; full sun. Perennial types do well in Zones 3-10.
Even as the growing season ends, this landscape is lovely. Fading perennials, stalwart annuals, and brilliant trees -- especially a flame red Japanese maple -- combine for a knockout late show.
This annual, wheat celosia (Celosia spicata), is a pretty companion to fall grasses and boasts bits of pink, which can be hard to find in autumn. It's an excellent dried flower. Grows to 3 feet; full sun.
Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not aggravate allergies. It's an excellent cut flower. Grows 2-4 feet; full sun. Zones 3-9.