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Gardening with Wanda: Plants to make your garden come alive with fall color

POSTED: October 7, 2011 12:30 a.m.

To a gardener, this time of year brings on thoughts of autumn color in our landscape’s flowers, shrubs and trees. There is nothing more pleasing to the eye than to look out over a canvas of yellow, oranges and deep reds. 

There are many ways to achieve this through a thoughtful choice of plants that are rich in colorful foliage and textures. Many of the plants that are predominantly green throughout the summer turn into an attention-getting, multicolored tapestry throughout the fall.

The four key components to a fall garden splendor of color are contrast, fall highlights, evergreens and grasses. Combining these components will give the garden landscape a scenery rich in rustic fiery hues.

Contrast light-colored foliage with dark, coarse or fine textures. An example would be combining a burning bush shrub with different leafy forms of ferns. Or plant hellebores (Lenten roses) in front of red barberry bushes. Plant a beautiful Carol Bark maple or dogwood tree, which explodes in autumn color as a backdrop. The reds and greens make a striking display.

Fall highlights would include trees such as bloodtwig dogwood. After its yellow leaves drop, the tree displays beautiful red branches that are striking throughout the winter season. Plants shrubs such as rhododendron and purple loropetalum, which both contrast strongly with lighter-colored garden plants.The fothergilla and viburnum shrubs shine in the fall with their strong red highlights.

Evergreens serve as visual anchors to the seasonal color change to many types of plants that change throughout the fall. Spruces, pines, cypresses and other conifers emphasize the changes with their never-ending deep and light greens. Mix conifers into the garden to orchestrate a lush green effect into the landscape. Plant them alongside bittersweet vines, which turn into a cascading yellow display of color.

Or choose the wonderful winterberry bush with its fall red berries as a striking contrast against the greens of a deodar cedar. The lush green Japanese cedar remains constant throughout the four seasons, making it a beautiful accent in the fall landscape.

Grasses can create a dramatic visual effect in the fall and winter garden. They are a staple of the cool season garden and should be included as component when using them for textured interest. There is nothing more beautiful than fading cattails, muhly grass or fountain grass to serve as a visual backdrop when combining color and textured foliage. Combine grasses along a garden border with chrysanthemums and colorful coleus for a colorful fall display until the first frost.

As always in plant selection, make sure you get the right plant for the right site. Consider soil, sun, shade and moisture requirements.

The many spicy colors of fall also can be created in outdoor containers to enjoy. Plant a dwarf evergreen or juniper into a large pot and combine ornamental cabbage with its array of purple, pink and green colors. Orange is a great color to use in a fall container. Plant a colorful orange mum with ornamental kale and mix different colors of green leafy veggies to work off each other. The evergreen plant will remain a constant and one can change the accents as the season change. Get creative!

Herald in the season and fill in the gaps with pumpkins and gourds of different sizes, textures and colors. Clean out a big pumpkin and use it as a container for potted ornamental cabbages or mums. Bittersweet vine and colorful maple leaves can accent an outdoor container as well.

This weekend will be good time to get out and find those perfect colorful plants that will give you pleasure for years to come! Find the perfect pumpkin and enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Happy gardening!

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.



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