Fall color with flowers and foliage
By Ray Ridlen
With a shift in the weather there is renewed excitement about gardening. Summer favorites are fading away, and fall colors are ready to make a splash on the landscape.
One of the most common fall flowers is the hardy chrysanthemum. Varieties in hues of red, yellow, orange and rust are perfect for the fall landscape. There are also interesting pink and purple assortments available. Most mums are purchased from garden centers, but can also be grown from seed or cuttings. Because they are hardy, plants will survive from year to year. Plants can also be divided in spring to multiply, mums benefit from frequent divisions.
Autumn Joy sedum is another plant widely used for its fall flowering. Flower heads begin to form in July and slightly resemble broccoli. The sedum begins to change to light pink color in August, then slowly turns a deeper magenta, eventually changing to a dark, rust-red in late fall. The seed heads persist, providing interest in the garden throughout the winter. In addition to the flowers, sedum has attractive succulent leaves. Easy to maintain, the plant performs best in full sun. Simply cut back if it becomes too tall and leggy, it will rebound quickly with dense new growth.
Asters and goldenrod are more fall bloomers. Solidago, or goldenrod cultivars, have been bred for use in the home garden and feature showy yellow flowers. Although goldenrod is often blamed for hay fever, ragweed is the real cause. Underutilized in gardens, goldenrod has much to offer with its long-lasting blooms.
Autumn Sage, salvia gregii, will continue to persist well into autumn. Another salvia for fall is Mexican Bush Sage. This species produces very showy flowers that stand above the foliage, small and white, extending from a velvety purple calyx often from 6 to 12 inches.
Nandina, or Heavenly Bamboo is wonderful in the fall with light, airy evergreen foliage. In autumn the foliage changes from green to red, orange or bronze, producing large flower clusters and red berries as the plant matures. A compact plant, it is versatile in the landscape year-round.
Ornamental or flowering cabbage is popular for fall and winter with its fancy colorful foliage in mixtures of green, purple, pink and red. Color begins to show after cool weather has set in so it is a good plant for late in the season. Flowering or ornamental kale, a related plant with ruffled foliage, is hardy and can tolerate temperatures as low as 5 degrees F, and remain colorful in the landscape.