Fall Color

Most people, when they think color in their garden, think of spring color. This is due to the fact that we are coming out of winter where the presence of color isn’t always there. The thought of beautiful hues of green, pink, blues and yellows get us excited as we enter a new season. Spring is such an unbelievable busy time for me, at work and in my own garden, I tend to prefer the warmer hues of reds, yellows, and oranges that fall color can bring to my garden. It’s also my favorite time of the year, Summer is finally winding down and the days have cooler temperatures and fewer mosquitoes!


When most people think of fall color they are probably envisioning the beautiful fall leaves of the maples trees. Red Maples, Sugar Maples and of course Japanese Maples can provide some of the most breathtaking fall colors. I am not fortunate to have red maples or sugar maples in my garden but we do have more than our fair share of Japanese maples. Since it is one of my husband’s favorite trees, I am lucky to have at least thirty trees, and yes, they each have their own variation of color in the fall. The fall color can range from a deep burgundy red to an orange-red with all the shades in between. Nothing catches your eye faster than a Japanese maple in full glorious fall color. We are lucky to have a native tree which also displays phenomenal fall color – the Sassafras. When we were clearing trees in our back lot, all we had to do was see the fall color provided by these trees to determine that they would stay as part of the garden. They are indeed worth saving.

Shrubs can also provide excellent color in your garden. Some of my favorite include Border Forsythia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Witchhazel, Burning Bush Euonymus and Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’. These can provide the same rich hues of reds, oranges, and yellows that trees provide. Try to pair them next to evergreens, so that the contrast between the green and red becomes evident.

Even though herbaceous, some perennials can provide fall color from the foliage as well as having the added bonus of flowers. Perennials that bloom in the fall include asters, swamp sunflowers (Helianthus), Joe Pye Weed, Black-eyed Susans, Sedums, and Salvias. Two of my favorites are Mexican Bush Sage and Chrysanthemum Sheffield. The latter was given to me by a wonderful friend and fellow SHS member. The beautiful shell pink flowers of this particular mum is definitely worthy of any garden. Perennials with fall foliage include some of my favorites, like Bluestar (Amsonia) and many of the hostas we grow. Other plants such as Peonies and ferns can provide leaves of yellow and orange as well.

The next time you are in your garden this fall, take a moment to look around and notice the abundance of fall color you may have already. Take time to enjoy the cooler temperatures, the dwindling mosquito population and appreciate the color you see.


Fall Gardening Tips

1. Sow a cover crop such as clover, winter rye or buckwheat in your garden to improve your soil if you are not growing vegetables throughout the winter.

2. Fall is an excellent time to plant new shrubs, perennials or trees. Don’t forget to continue to water after planting.

3. Bring in your houseplants before temperatures drop to 50’s at night. Make sure you check for pests before bringing them indoors

4. Remove all old leaves and spent blooms from your garden beds that might harbor diseases or pests. You want to start with a clean garden in the spring.

5. Plant your spring blooming bulbs in November. If the weather is staying too warm, refrigerating them for a couple of weeks will improve your blooms in the spring.


6. Plant cool season crops such as snapdragons, ornamental cabbage and kale, and pansies for cool season color in your garden.


-Johanna Westmen

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