Garden Photo of the Day

Favorite Plants for Fall

A landscape architect shares some of her favorite plants for autumn interest

Today’s photos come from Wendy Meyer.

I’m a landscape architect who happens to like plants. I grew up in Virginia and Maryland but have lived in Germany, Georgia, Southern California, and Texas, so I’ve gotten to experiment with a lot of fun plant material over the years. I miss my Yucca rostrata, but on the other hand, I can have lilacs here!

I woke up to snow this morning, so maybe it’s too late, but here are some photos of my fall garden in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I moved up here from Texas a couple of years ago, so I have been killing some plants, but learning as I go.

The mixed border was my first experiment. I moved a bunch of plants out of the way of foundation work and pond building, and this is what happened. I added the Joe Pye weed (I think it’s Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’, Zones 3–9) and a caryopteris (Caryopteris × clandonensis, Zones 5–9), but the rest were just tossed there. I figured I’d sort it out later, but then I kind of liked it.

The monarchs like this garden too, although I did not see many this year. This photo is from last year.

The bugbane (Actaea simplex ‘Atropurpurea’, Zones 4–8) has chocolate-colored lacy foliage in the summer that looks great with the hostas and picks up the leaf color of some of my heucheras. But what surprised me is the scent of the flower spikes—it’s amazing! Plus it’s 4 feet tall and looks striking with the brick-and-sandstone chimney.

I am hoping to get people to stop planting so much invasive burning bush here, so this fothergilla (Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’, Zones 5–8) is a little demonstration of another way to get that fall color.

More fall color from a witch hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Diane’, Zones 5–9).

I would never have planted the weeping cherry, and I almost took it out early on, but it has its moments. This is one of them.

This maple was here when I moved in, and I think there are much nicer varieties out there. But when I decided to rebuild the pond, it lived through the construction. So it gets to stay. Maybe someday, somewhere else, I’ll put in a full-moon maple, which is the one I’ve had my eye on for a while.

This oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5–9) is another fall color plant that is so much better than burning bush—and you get blooms, too! Deer don’t eat mine, because my German shepherd puts them off. Gardening with German shepherds is a whole other topic.

This is a mixed pink and white rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa, Zones 2–9) hedge. Deer don’t bother it, it blooms sporadically all summer (more if I get in there and deadhead), it smells great—and it is sprouting all over and getting denser, which is an unexpected bonus.


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View Comments


  1. cheryl_c 11/20/2018

    Wendy, I love your pictures and you've planted some of my favorite shrubs: oak leaf hydrangea, caryopteris, and fothergilla, and yours are looking really nice. And I think adding in Little Joe to that border was a genius move! I'm sure you'll have more monarchs next year - you're doing lots to make it an attractive place for them. Thanks for sharing!

    1. user-7056504 11/21/2018

      thanks! I never would have mixed hostas and sedums in Dallas, such different cultural requirements you would think. But many weird things work here, and the spent hosta stalks create an interesting accent

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 11/20/2018

    Really nice job on your mixed border, Wendy. Don't you love when a little of this and a little of that all come together to give a great finished looked?! Your fothergilla gets such a wonderful fall color. I have severL 'Mt. Airy' and they tend more to the orangy yellow. Glad your heart softened about the Japanese certainly looks lovely in the picture and, evidently, has proven itself to be a survivor.

  3. arboretum 11/20/2018

    nice choice of plants! you might enjoy the bluest foliage fothergilla, Blue Shadow , which has become our fav.:

    also, just for old-nomenclature sake, is that Cimicifuga Black Beauty/Hillside Black Beauty maybe? (originally Fred McGourty's introduction, from Norfolk CT.)

    Can you post a photo of that red dissected Acer---that shows it from the yard, with the house as backdrop? maybe a better angle for judging .

    congrats on all your success in your new habitat!

    1. user-7056504 11/21/2018

      Yes it is the old Cimicifuga. The tag said Atropurpurea. I can't keep up with the taxonomists! Sedums are now Hylotelephium, asters are Eurybia....! I will look for a photo of the maple, all its leaves just went in the pond for this year
      I don't see a lot of Blue Shadow fothergilla here. I may have 3 types since I planted at 3 times. They have turned orange-yellow now after the snow but leaves are still on!

  4. arboretum 11/29/2018

    oh no Mr.Bill! no way am i subbing a new 3 or 4 syllable name
    for a single or 2 syllable name!
    other red/ppl fall foliage shrubs are:
    -- cotinus Palace?Royal? Ppl or Grace,+ others
    --Viburnum Winterthur (and with additional dark blue/ppl berries as well!)
    --various barberries (i do not support the belief that they are all invasive)
    --(i'm not sure but i think so)--sambucus and nine bark

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