Garden Photo of the Day

Early Fall in the Fern Fairway

Colors of the season in Cherry's garden

The past few Fridays we’ve been tagging along as Cherry Ong takes us to visit some wonderful public gardens, but today she’s welcoming us into her home garden—specifically, the narrow, side garden she calls the Fern Fairway. It is a difficult space that she has transformed into a beautiful feature in her garden, and today we’re getting to see how it looks dressed in fall colors.

Japanese maplesJapanese maples (Acer palmatum, Zones 5–9) are beautiful every day of the year, but they peak in the fall, their delicate foliage coloring up incredibly brilliantly. Behind the maple, the flowers of hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata, Zone 3–9) are covered with flowers fading to pink at the end of the season. In front, a begonia (Begonia hybrid, annual) echoes the color of the maple leaves in its brilliantly red blooms.

Colorful begonias and coleusLooking down the fairway, Cherry makes the most of this space with lots of containers, both on the ground and hanging from the fence. Colorful begonias and coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides, Zones 10–11 or as an annual) hang on the fence, while below ferns and other perennials fill in with the foliage in every shade of green.

begonia flowersThough the begonias can bloom all summer, the colors are particularly appropriate to autumn.

Sacred bambooSacred bamboo (Nandina domestica, Zones 6–9) doesn’t lose its leaves in the winter, but they do bush beautiful shades of red as the cooler time of year approaches.

HydrangeaHydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla, Zones 5–9) flowers are beautiful at every stage, and I particularly love the muted tones as these ones fade at the end of their life.

More begonia blooms the color of fall leavesMore begonia blooms in the color of fall leaves

Bright begonias, coleus and Japanese painted fernBright begonias and coleus are set off by the surrounding foliage. Dangling from the pot with them is a tendril of lacy silvery leaves that I think belong to a lotus vine (Lotus maculatus, Zones 10–12 or as an annual), and reaching up from below are the fronds of a Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 3–8).

detail of a fern, showing the rusty-colored spores on the underside of the frond.This final detail of a fern shows the rusty-colored spores on the underside of a frond.

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  1. nwphilagardener 10/29/2021

    When I see lovely and healthy annuals late in the season, I wonder how many of us try to overwinter them. Can those begonia tubers be stored for next year? Is it worth making cuttings from the Coleus to see if the can live to see the spring? I hope Cherry tells us any of her strategies.

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/29/2021

      Sorry to disappoint but since I don’t have a basement nor greenhouse I don’t keep them. I wish I could. Instead I give the plants away to my friends to keep as houseplants. Gives them an extended life…just like tender succulents that converted into succulent topped pumpkins that are thanksgiving gifts too. I was told if I save the tubers I can start them out early indoors and that too is a problem because I don’t have the space. If Tim Vojt is reading, maybe he can share his overwintering tips for coleus and his other annuals.

  2. imajayhawk 10/29/2021

    I just love how you transformed this narrow space into a feast for the eyes. Well done, Cherry.

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/29/2021

      Thank you for your kind words. Lucky for me a lot of ferns and other perennials like growing in containers.

  3. User avater
    simplesue 10/29/2021

    I'm with NWPhilaGardener in wanting to save the annuals which are looking so wonderful right before the frost comes along.
    I put special annuals on the window sill for the winter but they never thrive until I sit the outside again next spring.
    I LOVE the Fern Fairway!
    Every inch of space used as a garden, is what a real gardener does!
    Little spaces like the Fern Fairway seem even more precious and surprising to come across than the obvious spaces people garden in.
    Very pretty and inspiring!

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/29/2021

      Thank you.

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/29/2021

    As usual, Cherry, everything is so very lovely. I especially love that Japanese Maple.

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/30/2021

      Thank you. Hope you’re enjoying fall in your garden these days.

  5. CTpat 10/29/2021

    Re: saving annuals. I can't vouch for many annuals, but I have a tuberous begonia that I stick in the greenhouse every winter, water a few times, and when it dies back leave it until leaves start to show in maybe May. When there's no chance of it freezing I put it out again. Every 2-3 years I change the soil in the large pot. No luck with coleus--too cool in the greenhouse.

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/30/2021

      Thank you for sharing your experience overwintering begonias.

  6. sheila_schultz 10/29/2021

    Your Fern Fairway looks exceptional this time of year, Cherry. The intense colors made me smile and the Japanese maple is a show stopper! It's such a perfect use of an incredibly challenging space. Love it.

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/30/2021

      Thank you. Got that Acer palmatum ‘Ariadne’ as a tiny specimen - best way to save $$$ - it’s come a long way!

  7. btucker9675 10/29/2021

    Really lovely - such vibrant colors and I love the underside of the ferns.

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/30/2021

      Thank you. It’s such a short time between the colour change and leaves falling - it looks completely different right now - mostly dormant. Hoping to swap out the verticals for some evergreens for the cold season. I have some ornamental grasses hiding out under the plant tables. 😜

  8. pplat 10/29/2021

    So beautiful! You are an inspiration to many! How do you hang plants on the fence? I would love to try this. Thanks for sharing your masterpiece with us.

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/30/2021

      There are about 12 planters hanging on the fence. The ones in the post are rusty iron pot rings with a leaf motiff. Purchased 8 of them for $20 from a Craigslist sale way back. One of my best purchases! Some are half galvanized planters and steel troughs from a local and very talenated pot designer. Hoping I can hang more but hubby says not a good idea. I look forward to the day the fence is replaced and hope we can get a reinforced one so I can plant more.

      1. pplat 10/31/2021

        Thank you so very much for explaining how you hang the pots on the fence! I really appreciate the fact that you so freely share your expertise with others. Happy gardening to all!

  9. [email protected] 10/29/2021

    Wish I knew what your Nandina variety is- simply stunning! I have been successful in overwintering begonia tubers. My biggest setback has been not labeling the colors! I just put them in a shed that doesn't freeze, and try to keep barely moist. Thanks for sharing!

    1. perenniallycrazy 10/30/2021

      Hats off to you for successfully overwintering your begonia tubers! The Nandina is called Pink Blush, think by Sunset Plants - hope you can find one.

  10. carolineyoungwilliams 12/16/2021

    OMG....Cherry, your flowers are gorgeous. I absolutely love the Japanese Maple. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful space. Keep up the great work.

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