At the end of summer, the splendor of autumn unfurls: deep purple flowers, willowy stalks, and crimson stems. Many summer favorites – dahlias, foxgloves, and marigolds – extend their blooming period until the last rays of autumn light. Once the heat dissipates, cool-weather blooms such as snapdragons, asters, and delphiniums come to play. Together, the assembly of flowers stretch heavenwards for one last swan song, in memoriam of a time when they once commanded the skyline.
Autumn is a time of beginnings and endings. While some flowers have withered and become derelict, others are just getting started. Sweep away accumulated debris, tend to the remaining plants, and refresh with new ones for a vibrant garden. You can try out these innovative themed ideas or experiment with your own for one last show.
1. Prairie Garden
Don’t you hate it when your flowers die on you? To circumvent this problem, some gardeners have taken to growing prairie-themed gardens. At once delicate and rustic, a prairie garden presents multifaceted layers of textures, heights and variations – the American version of the English cottage garden. They can also attract beneficial pollinators and wildlife to the garden, helping you create an intricate ecosystem in your backyard.
Prairie plants, many of which are native to the area, are tenacious, holding on in even the most hostile environment conditions. In fact, some are too hardy – invasive even. Always check before planting if a species is invasive in your area.
Common Ornamental Grasses
- Switch grasses
- Prairie Dropseed
- Side Oats
- Pink Hair Grass
- Fountain Grass
Common Perennial Flowers
- Black-eyed Susan
- Purple Prairie Clover
- Wild Lupine
- Prairie Smoke
2. Goth Garden
Whether whimsically macabre or deeply unsettling, there is something evocative about goth themed gardens. And since Halloween is approaching, fall is the ideal time to curate a collection of dark, unusual, and mysterious plants. From smoky black ornamental grass to the flamboyant fullness of wine-red dahlias, darkly-hued plants have always captivated the imagination – many would look lovely cascading over a trellis. Crumbling stone statues, glass-stained lanterns, and other trinkets foraged from antique markets lend an old-world charm characteristic of gothic gardens.
Try These Varieties: Calibrachoa Black Currant Punch™ Superbells, ‘Black Velvet’ Petunias, ‘Blackout’ Violas, Lenten Rose ‘New York Night’, Western Coneflower ‘Green Wizard’, ‘Black Satin’ Dahlia
3. Container Gardens
You might have noticed container gardens cropping up near storefronts in the city. Often paired with textured grasses, coral bells, and ornamental kale, these fall planters provide a welcome respite from the drab architecture of pedestrian crossroads. Now you can recreate this look in your garden with Vego’s Special Shapes Collection, designed to remedy eyesores in the yard or structure a bare patio. Many of those configurations allow you to maximize space by growing vegetables alongside flowers.
Best Fall Flowers to Grow
Pale-bloomed hydrangeas and rustic annuals often dominate the fall landscape, but there are many other flowers, both annual and perennial, that you can grow to invoke a magical atmosphere.
- Dahlia: Few flowers can match the flamboyant fullness of dahlias. dahlias can grow to be as large as dinner plates. Its tubers, which resemble potatoes, need to be dug up and stored away if you live in a cool climate.
- Autumn Sage: Those that live in the dry, rocky regions of the American Southwest, particularly Texas, can rejoice. Autumn sage is a shrub-like perennial that sprouts in a profusion of ruby red color, beginning in fall until late spring. A drought-tolerant variety ideal for low desert gardens, it is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.
- Sweet Alyssum: Sweet alyssum is a modest plant with fragrant clusters of tiny flowers. Though it is content to dwell in the shade, it prefers at least six hours of sunlight in colder climates. Its trailing habit, forming dense, carpet-like mounds, makes it perfect for Cascading Garden Beds. Plant sweet alyssum next to aphid-prone crops, including broccoli, roses, and tomatoes.
- Shrub Rose: If you fancy the delicate appearance of roses, but find it a hassle to grow them, then shrub roses are an alternative. Notable for their disease-resistance and hardiness, shrub roses are a motley group of roses that do not fit into other categories of rose bushes.
- Celosia: With whimsical names such as Dragon’s Breath and Red Velvet, celosias are among the most interesting fall plants. Prized for their textural interest and intense brilliance, celosias range from dark carmine to the palest pink. They grow best in well-drained soil.
Fall Shrubs and Trees to Plant
In autumn gardens, shrubs and trees are often relegated to the backdrop, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. Not only do they add fiery color to an otherwise plain landscape, but they also provide shade, privacy, and shelter for beneficial wildlife.
- Redbud Bush: Despite its name, redbud bushes do not bloom red, but are actually pink in color. While most varieties will turn yellow, Ruby Falls Redbud is a variety with dual fanfare, producing deep burgundy foliage that falls in a sweeping cascade and magenta blossoms in the spring. The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is common in cooler climates; the Western redbud is smaller and more drought-tolerant.
- Red-Twig Dogwood: Red-twig dogwood is one of the few plants grown not for its foliage, but for its branches, which are a striking red color. Able to withstand extreme temperatures, it provides a brilliant contrast against the desolate winter landscape. During the fall, the leaves of most varieties turn a rich, crimson hue.
- River Birch: There is something perpetually amusing about the peeling bark of birch trees. River birches are resilient against most pests and diseases, though you may encounter the occasional aphid. A fast-growing tree that thrives in damp soil, it can easily surpass 35 feet in height.
- Highbush Blueberry: Though burning bush is popular among many gardeners, it is an invasive species that reseeds readily. Instead, avoid the hassle and opt for a highbush blueberry, which provides blazing fall color long after the harvest is over. Highbush blueberries, with their edible berries, are a practical complement to ornamental plants that prefer acidic soil, such as azaleas and rhododendrons. Blueberries will not perform well in a poorly-drained location; plant them in raised garden beds if the soil is not ideal.