Fall can be a brown time in the perennial garden unless you plan your garden carefully to provide color and interest through this beautiful season of maturity.
Fall is actually my favorite time of the year. The color on the mountains surrounding the Shenandoah Valley is gorgeous, the days are warm, and the night air becomes crisp. It’s a great time to be in the garden!
Think Outside the Box
Often when we think of color in the garden, we think primarily of flowers. In the fall garden, color can come from much more than just flowers! So many perennials, trees, and shrubs have gorgeous fall foliage or bright berries or showy seed heads or beautiful flowers that dry right in the garden! When choosing plants to put in the garden, it’s fun to think beyond the flowers. What will the plant look like when it’s finished blooming? Will it contribute to the overall beauty of the garden when the flowers are spent? This is not to say that every plant you put in your garden has to have all season interest – that would be pretty hard. The trick is to intersperse perennials, trees, and shrubs that have fall interest into your overall plan.
What Should I Plant?
The best way to choose the plants with beautiful fall color and interest is to visit established gardens and see for yourself those that make a spectacular show. The gardens at Viette’s showcase an incredible diversity of trees, shrubs, evergreens, and perennials that are in their full glory and take center stage in the fall of the year.
Shrubs and small trees with colorful berries make great accents in the fall garden. One of my favorite shrubs for producing stunning berries is Callicarpa dichotoma (Purple Beautyberry). In early fall, vibrant purple berries line the arching stems of this 3-4 foot deciduous shrub. Hollies, both evergreen and deciduous, also provide bright berries (usually red but there are even some cultivars that produce blue berries) in the fall. Personally, I’m partial to the deciduous hollies, Ilex verticillata, because the red berries along the branches are even more striking after the leaves drop. Euonymus alatus (Burning Bush) and the native Sourwood tree have stunning red fall foliage that provides a vibrant focal point in the fall garden.
Showy Seed Heads & Dried Flowers
Many perennials provide interest in the fall garden by virtue of what remains after the petals fall. Siberian iris, oriental poppies, Japanese anemones, peonies, coneflowers, and yucca all produce interesting seed pods if the spent flower stems are allowed to remain in the garden through fall and winter. Astilbe, hydrangea, Joe Pye Weed, sedum, ornamental grasses, and goldenrod have flowers which dry nicely right in the garden providing interest and color well into winter.
There are so many wonderful plants that have interest beyond flowers!
Plan a trip to our nursery and gardens in the colorful Shenandoah Valley this fall and revel in the glorious fall colors all around you! You won't be disappointed!
Plants for Outstanding Fall Color and Interest
Perennials: Amsonia hubrichtii - foliage, Anemone japonica - flowers & seed heads, Baptisia australis - seed pods, Belamcanda - blackberry-like seed heads, Ceratostigma - flowers and foliage, Epimedium (Barrenwort) - foliage, Geranium sanguineum - foliage, Heuchera (Coralbells) - foliage, Hosta - foliage and dried flower stems, Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris) - seed pods, Ornamental grasses - foliage and flowers, Paeonia (Peonies) - foliage and seed pods, Papaver orientale (Poppy) - seed pods, Perovskia (Russian Sage) - flowers, foliage, Solidago (Goldenrod) - flowers, Sedum - flowers, foliage, seed heads
Trees and Shrubs: Maple, Oak, Hickory, Ginkgo, Sourwood, Dogwood, Euonymus, Fothergilla, Cotinus (Smoke Bush), Callicarpa (Beautyberry), Ilex verticillata, Hydrangea, Viburnum (American not Oriental) Bittersweet, and many more!