I’ll admit it: Sometimes I’m so worn out by the end of summer, with all the watering and weeding, that I really just give up on my garden. But by the time the sugar maples (Acer saccharum, Zones 3–8) start bursting into full color in the woods at the edge of the garden, I start feeling guilty that my landscape is dreary and dull in comparison. These designs show that with the incorporation of a few key autumnal stars, your garden can become a worthy partner to its seasonal surroundings.
All you need is one star—and maybe a couple of extras
There’s no denying that the Rocky Mountain maple is the star of this front border. But the masses of fine-textured grasses interspersed with pops of color from the asters and the goldenrod are the perfect backup singers. Together they make this four-season garden really shine in autumn.
1. Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum, Zones 5–8)
2. Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum* ‘Rubrum’, Zones 8–10)
3. ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Zones 4–9)
4. ‘Purple Dome’ aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’, Zones 3–8)
5. Goldenrod (Solidago cv., Zones 4–9)
Fiery foliage amps up a simple container
This design would hold up all year, thanks to the airy grass foliage and the red and green leaves of the stalwart heucheras. But when fall hits and the grasses start pluming and their blades start turning color, the wash bucket comes alive.
1. ‘Adagio’ miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis* ‘Adagio’, Zones 5–9)
2. Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica* ‘Rubra’, Zones 5–9)
3. Heuchera (Heuchera cv., Zones 4–9)
4. Heuchera (Heuchera cv., Zones 4–9)
If you want impact, think yellow
No color is more eye-catching in fall than bright yellow. The sun seems to make everything in that hue just glow. Here that is exemplified by the intensity of the dogwood foliage, which is contrasted brilliantly by the dark purple and shocking pink asters.
1. Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis* ‘Zebrinus’, Zones 5–9)
2. ‘Morning Light’ maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis* ‘Morning Light’, Zones 5–9)
3. ‘Midwinter Fire’ bloodtwig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, Zones 4–7)
4. ‘Violet Queen’ Italian aster (Aster amellus ‘Violet Queen’, Zones 5–8)
5. ‘September Ruby’ New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘September Ruby’, Zones 4–8)
Stars That Add Major Fall Impact
Even if you don’t have room for a lot of plants that save their best for autumn, by adding just one of the plants below you’ll increase the showiness of your landscape.
Photos: Richard Bloom/gapphotos.com; Greg Ryan/Alamy Stock Photo; Friedrich Strauss/gapphotos.com; Mark Bolton/gapphotos.com; Virginia Small; Brandi Spade; Jennifer Benner; Nancy J. Ondra