Fallscaping – Color and Bloom in Autumn

  • Post published:10/03/2015
  • Post comments:1 Comment
Japandese anemone 'Robustissima'
Japanese anemone ‘Robustissima

Fallscaping is a way of thinking about our autumnal landscape. After the heat and riotous color of the summer garden, things can start to look a little tired, but we can include plantings that will bring fresh color and life to our landscape even as the days grow shorter.

As we enter the autumnal season we can take advantage of the color changes among the plants we already have. Do we have trees like kousa dogwoods whose foliage changes from green to a rich burnished red? Do we already enjoy the dark wine red of the oakleaf hydrangea?

In my garden we have four ginkgo trees that turn into bright golden ornaments in the fall. At least until the cold night when almost all the foliage drops at once. We also have a highbush cranberry, Viburnam trilobum  which I love for the red berries that last into late fall by which time they have mostly been eaten by the birds.

In our Greenfield house we have planted more viburnams, one of which already has rich red color. No berries yet. The winterberries, Ilex verticillata, are still green but the berries are starting to color up and they will be bright and cheerful going into the winter.

American witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, produces its twirly blooms in the fall, and the foliage turns golden. I am going to have to think of a place to put this tree in the Greenfield garden because it sometimes grows along stream banks, and it also tolerates clay soil.

I have already planted a small clump of the Japanese Anemone Robustissima, but I am planning to bring more down to the Greenfield house. Robustissima is one of those flowers that looks delicate but it is very tough. It is about three or four feet tall and looks great as a mass planting when a cloud of these blossoms is glowing in the sun.  There is also a white variety and hybrids with double blossoms.

Aster 'Alma Potchke'
Aster ‘Alma Potchke’

I love asters. I have the tall bright pink Alma Potchke in both the Heath and Greenfield gardens. I moved several of the lowgrowing Woods Blue asters from Heath to Greenfield where I hope they will create another blue carpet.

I have mentioned my wild New England asters that grow uninvited around our Heath landscape, but there are named New England asters that are available to all of us. Purple Dome is shorter than many asters, only about 18 inches, but the rich royal purple petals around a golden center are stunning. I am interested that though they need sun, they are tolerant of wet sites. I had the very tall Harrington’s Pink aster in my garden for years, and now I don’t know where it has gone. It makes a great show

The native Bluebird aster grows to between two and three feet tall, with hundreds of lavender-blue blossoms around a yellow eye. They are drought tolerant. A different benefit. It is important to know sun and water needs or tolerances if we are going to put the right plant in the right spot where it will thrive.

Although not an aster, pink or white boltonia has a similar form of fine daisy-like rays around a golden center. It’s three to four feet tall and never needs staking. A single plant makes a glorious show and all it needs is a sunny spot. I don’t know why, but I rarely see boltonia in the gardens I visit, but there is a great clump on the Bridge of Flowers.

Fallscaping could not be complete without mums. Chrysanthemums are an iconic autumn flower, but we don’t have to settle for the pots of mums sold at every supermarket. They do come in glowing colors, but there are many more varieties of chrysanthemum that we can grow for ourselves. The big generous chrysanthemum I have growing in Heath and in Greenfield is the so called Sheffield daisy. I first saw this wonderful plant growing in the SmithCollege gardens one October and I could not believe the lush bloom.  Even in Heath the plant has increased so much that I have been able to divide it and divide it again, giving away divisions.

Chrysanthemum koreanum Sheffield Pink blooms late in the season, a bushy plant covered with peachy-pink daisies. A wonderful easy care plant.


Another plant that I rarely see is cotoneaster, pronounced co-toe-nee-aster. When I was planting the lawn beds I was trying to cover up as much bare soil as possible. For that reason I planted two cotoneasters close together. A mistake. They started off very slowly, at least in my garden, but once they got going they grew into and around each other. I have lost the names, but both have typical cotoneaster growth, about two feet high and with a spread of about 6 feet. One of mine has bright green smooth foliage, and the other has smaller, deep green pointed leaves with more definite veining. In the fall they usually have ornamental red berries, although I don’t see any this year on mine. One of them produces large coral-red blossoms  in the spring that resemble quince blossoms. They are trouble free deciduous shrubs that only need sun. I am surprised I don’t see them more often.

What is still blooming or producing beautiful berries or foliage in your fall garden? Nasturtiums? Morning glories?  Salvia? Hydrangeas? Autumn crocus? With a little planning we can have color in our gardens well into November.

Sheffield daisies
Sheffield daisies

Between the Rows   September 19, 2015

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Denise D Hammond

    Lovely photos. I am trying to get rid of a lot of my cotoneaster that has just run rampant over the foundation plantings.

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