Fall Garden Design Lessons
Create Color and Texture Combinations
Canna 'Tropicanna Gold', Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion', Zinnia 'Orange Profusion', Cotinus 'Grace', and Larix kaempferi 'Nana' push the spectrum with interesting texture and explosions of autumn color.
Formula for Fall Fireworks
Orchestrating a garden that pops in autumn but looks swell for the rest of the growing season can be a challenge. Annuals are critical to the secret formula -- look for them in early spring at local nurseries. Search for new varieties as well as old faithfuls, such as Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’, Zinnia ‘Profusion Orange’, Verbena bonariensis, Browallia speciosa ‘Silver Bells’, and Canna ‘Tropicanna Gold’.
Boost Fall Foliage
Find plants that boast lush color in the fall season, such as Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’.
Rather than cutting a straight line, try undulating your borders. Here, annuals include multiples of Zinnia ‘Orange Profusion’, Cleome ‘Senorita Blanca’ and ‘Purple Queen’, Verbena bonariensis, and Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ clustered around a Thuja ‘DeGroot Spire’.
Fall Power Perennials
Keep color seamlessly from summer to fall with these surefire picks.
Create Color Contrast
Foliage can lend interesting tones as well. Dahlia ‘Mystic Dreamer’, shown here, isn’t just about the fetching flowers -- the bronze foliage enters into the conversation, coupled with the clean white flowers of Browallia speciosa ‘Silver Bells’.
Mix It Up
Between Nicotiana 'Tinkerbelle' (in the foreground) and Crambe maritima are waves of Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion', Salvia uliginosa, Eupatorium capillifolium, and Cuphea 'David Verity'.
Work with the Light
Autumn light can be stunning -- so take advantage of its golden glow to create garden art. The cascading cutleaf Japanese maple shown here, for example, glows in the late-season sun. Because the tree matures at 10 feet tall, it won't overpower the vinca groundcover or dwarf evergreens growing nearby.
Focus on Texture
Make your garden more impactful by creating contrasts in texture. One easy way to do this is to stick to a limited color palette and choose plants with different kinds of leaves. For example, 'Mellow Yellow' spiraea offers fine-texture foliage set off beautifully by similarly colored zebragrass.
Use the Views
Look for spaces in your garden to create a commanding view. For example, create a narrow swath of lawn that leads to a bench and birdbath. Surround the grass with a circus of color with plants such as Chinese chestnut, flowering dogwood, summersweet, and deciduous azaleas.
Test Garden Tip: In this garden, the path curves out of sight, enticing curious visitors deeper into the landscape.
Go Beyond Basic Mums
Mums are a fall garden classic -- but there are many options available beyond basic garden center annuals that you can enjoy for seasons to come.
Keep It Simple
Evergreens, such as the Japanese red pine shown here, are stars all year long. This pine features stunning sculptural branching structure and reddish bark. Low plantings of thyme, pinks, oregano, ajuga, and juniper complement the tree without drawing attention away from it. Hardy yellow chrysanthemums dot the landscape, adding pizzazz.
Mix Shrubs with Perennials
Shrubs lend structure and year-round interest to a perennial border. Incorporate them among your perennials and use them to play off one another. For example, purple leaves of 'Diablo' ninebark are a darker version of the flower heads on 'Matrona' sedum. Dwarf Alberta spruce backs long-blooming 'Fireworks' goldenrod.
Add Form to Function
Take advantage of beautiful autumn days by giving yourself spots to sit outdoors and enjoy the weather. And be sure to dress them up with plants that put on fall finery. This bench, for example, supports hardy kiwi vines, which provide shade for anyone resting a spell. It also screens the view behind the bench.
Try one of these stunning varieties that continue to sizzle as temperatures drop.
Rake Up Savings
Fall is a great time to scoop up bargains, especially on large plants that would take up too much space at nurseries. Be on the lookout for big, bold plants at clearance-sale prices. This variegated miscanthus, for instance, was acquired as a late-season deal.
Play Off Water
Autumn hues are lovely by themselves but look especially good when reflected in water. Site a favorite Japanese maple (such as 'Beni Kawa', shown here), dogwood, or another reliable variety for a fall show near your water garden.
Highlight Your Harvest
Gourds, pumpkins, osage orange fruits, dried hydrangeas, and mums turn a drab setting into a stunning feature. Arrange the bounty into a colorful combination. Add other items, such as cornstalks, wicker baskets, or even old garden implements.
Work with What You Have
This stone wall -- nearly obscured by an 'Annabelle' hydrangea -- provides a practical use for all the rocks found on the property. Rusty orange foliage of serviceberry and bald cypress provide a brilliant fall backdrop. The wall takes the stage in winter as it adds structure to the landscape.
It only takes two plants to make a big impact. Yellow-green and reddish-purple are perfect mates because they're opposite each other on the color wheel. Bring the combination to life with golden variegated Japanese forestgrass and 'Fens Ruby' spurge.
Common elements keep a collection of plants from looking random. Here, variegated lemon thyme echoes the color of maidengrass, while blue oatgrass matches hues with lavender.