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Designing fall gardens

By: Garden Gate staff
Fall can be incredible in a garden. Here are some techniques for creating stunning fall displays.

Photo courtesy of Don Bolak Click on the photo to see a larger image.

designing fall gardens

Fall can be an incredible time in a garden. Here are some techniques for creating stunning fall displays.

PLANT DRAMATIC CONTRASTS — Do you have lots of trees with yellow fall foliage in your neighborhood? For contrast, put plants in your garden that have red, orange and purple fall color, like the Virginia sweetspire to the far right in the photo. Want a dramatic texture contrast? Pair a bold-foliage plant, such as the bergenia in the foreground of the photo, with a plant with finer foliage, like the sweetspire.

When you step into a garden, color is often the first thing you notice. Texture contrast is usually second. But to keep your garden interesting all of the time, you also need to include a variety of contrasting plant shapes and sizes.

LAYER BEDS AND BORDERS — Many late-season plants aren’t at their best in spring. So layer the plants. In other words, plant early bloomers, such as Shasta daisies and delphiniums, behind medium-height perennials, like tall sedums, which bloom much later in the season. And let fall asters or tall phlox billow over the vacant spot left when you cut off the spent stems of spring-flowering perennials.

Layering plants is easy in an island bed or wide border. In a 3-ft.-wide bed, it’s difficult, but doable. Rather than having a lot of different plants, select three to five autumn plants of different textures and heights that you like.

PLAN FOR MULTI-SEASON APPEAL — Choose plants, such as the bergenia, that have a strong presence all year. It sends up clusters of pink or white flowers in spring, followed by bold, glossy foliage that turns red in fall and remains through the winter. Rely on plants like this, which have interesting foliage as well as flowers, as long-term visual anchors. You’ll find even simple things, like the bright-green foliage of artemisia, looks terrific when almost everything else is brown.

For more great ideas for designing fall gardens, check out Autumn GardenScapes, Volume 2 at right!

Published: Sept. 29, 2009
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