Do you wish the brilliant splendour of your summer garden would last until the nip of that first frost? Of course, the fall foliage of trees or shrubs, with their blazing autumn colours, are always the star, but perfectly placed perennials will add pops of brilliant oranges, yellows, reds, purples and blues to the mix. With plants in shades you love, you might find that fall is your favourite garden season.
Annuals are an inexpensive alternative. You may associate annuals with late spring but fall planting with tender annuals is the mark of the true lover of great landscaping. For success in enjoying them in the autumn landscape, though, you need to be planning now.
Don’t wait til September to buy flowers!
Planting them too late shortens the time you’ll have to enjoy them. That means the window of opportunity for planting can be quite small and you’ll need to be ready. If there’s a rainy period in mid-to-late August, that’s the perfect time for planting. But if it’s still scorching out, it’s better to wait until early September.
There’s also the issue of what plants are available at this time (as the summer wears on, few garden centres will be carrying your favourite annuals), so buy them no later than late August.
Choose both hardy and tender plants
Plants that will survive the first frost, like chrysanthemums, flowering kale and flowering cabbage are great choices for fall plantings. All provide the landscape with colour until well after the first frost. But don’t be afraid to mix in annuals, too, including:
• Red salvia
• White alyssum
The contribution of annuals will be brief but spectacular. Marigolds are one of the best picks because they bloom in the classic autumn colours: orange, yellow, gold, and so on.
Form, texture, and designing visual interest
While colour comes to mind immediately, don’t forget about texture and form when planning your landscape. When buying your fall flowers, if you make your choices with an eye to achieving contrast (either in colour, form or texture), your landscaping will have neighbours convinced that you are a real pro.
“Form” roughly means the shape of a plant. Visual interest can be achieved by using contrasting shapes. A mound-shaped plant like the perennial silver mound gives you a good counterpoint to a spiky plant such as Dracaena indivisa. Both artemisia and dracaena are grown for foliage, not blooms, so add some fall flowers to such a planting to give it more colour.
“Texture” is mainly a visual matter in landscape design, rather than touch. It is dependent upon the form of the plant’s blooms or its leaves. For example, the texture of the leaves of Senecio cineraria “Silver Dust”, with its toothed edges, contrasts greatly with a neighbouring plant that has leaves with smoother edges such as Salvia splendens “Red Hussar”.
Likewise, visual interest is provided by putting a relatively small-leafed, more delicate plant such as chrysanthemum next to a plant bearing larger leaves, such as the coarse-looking flowering kales and cabbages.
Most people have specific colours in mind when planning for fall. Red-yellow-orange is a classic for the harvest season. Orange and yellow nasturtiums, lemon yellow French marigolds (Tagetes patula “Lemon Drop”), and reddish-purple plumed Celosia will set your fall gardens ablaze.
A metallic colour scheme is also popular for fall: golds, silvers, and bronzes. Golden African marigolds (Tagetes erecta “F1 Gold Galore”), “Silver King,” and a bronze coleus (Coleus x hybridus) work well together.
Some prefer pinkish-purple chrysanthemums and another perennial, the purple Aster novae-angliae, to traditional fall colour schemes.
Other perennial choices include:
• Montauk daisies
• Autumn Joy stonecrop
by KRISTY ELIK
Mississauga Master Gardeners
Applewood Garden Club