Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fall Colors

The end of the summer doesn't have to mean the end of your colorful garden. There are plenty of options for your garden with fall-blooming flowers to create a landscape just as colorful and bright as the falling leaves around you.

Naturally the mum is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks "fall flowers." The mum, or chrysanthemum, is perhaps the quintessential plant of the autumn season and is available in an array of colors and varieties that will immediately brighten up any garden. You can choose from a variety of flowers ranging across the spectrum from mums with long, narrow petals, to wider and more compact flowers, in many shades of yellow, pink, red, orange, purple, bronze and white.

There are plenty of options in plants besides the mum to bring color to your garden. The aster is considered the other classic autumn flower. Asters work well as a border in a garden because of the magnitude of color they offer when purchased in large quantities and planted in dramatic arcs. They come in such colors as white, lavender, blue, bright pink, purple with a yellow eye, and medium blue. Like the mum, the aster is a perennial that will come back and flower in the fall if cared for correctly. Together, mums and asters can form the backbone of an enduring, brilliant autumn garden to look forward to every year.

The tough little pansy is another great choice for a fall garden and will be left blooming after all the other flowers in your garden have died off. It will also be amongst the first to bloom again come spring. A lot of pansy varieties are biennial, and they will flower all fall into some of the winter and then bloom early the next spring. Pansies have been bred in a rainbow of colors, ranging from gold and orange though to purple, violet, and a blue so deep as to be almost black. They are quite a hardy plant, growing well in sunny or partially sunny positions.

Though these are the three most common flowers for the fall, there are still a variety of other kinds of flowers and plants available to light up the garden. For flowers in a variety of colors to add to your garden consider softly-hued Japanese Anemones (think whites, pinks, and reds), petite yellow-petaled Coreopsis (also available in deep burgundy and white), and Ceratostigma, a variety of Plumbago with lovely clusters of small flowers and shiny dark green leaves that turn red later on in the fall. For less traditional-looking blooms, there is Cimicifuga, with its tall slender dark stems and tiny creamy white flowers, Perovskia, more commonly known as Russian Sage, an herb but with stand-out deeply colored purplish to bluish flowers, and Sedum which offers unique, small star-shaped flower clusters in neutral white, yellow, pink, and burgundy tones. Sedum also works well as a ground cover.

Possibilities for an autumn garden do not merely include flowers. Think about incorporating tall, wispy ornamental grasses whose neutral colors serve as a nice contrast to the vivid colors of the flowers. Decorative peppers also bring a nice variety to a garden, and come in bright shades of yellow, red, and orange. Other vegetables that give your fall garden a unique look are ornamental cabbages and kales.

Preparing a garden of fall perennials is worth the work and investment as it will last you year after year. As the weather cools off it's an ideal chance to get outside and work in your garden, and it's also an important time to prepare your plants for the winter and begin thinking ahead about your spring gardening.