Fall Colour Transition

by | Sep 8, 2021

As a very warm and exceptionally dry summer transitions into a rather abrupt wet re-hydration of our lawns, trees, and flower beds, it’s time to re-evaluate our garden colour. Let’s be honest, it was a struggle to keep things looking good in the heat, and now many of our plantings simply look tired, beat up, and ready for a change. We can’t overstate how much value fresh plantings add to the look of our homes and patios and the lift they give to our spirits. So, let’s do that makeover now! 

As with all investments, we need to be a little strategic with our plantings. We need to consider: what is going to look good now, and will it carry that colour into late fall when we would appreciate it most? For the greatest impact, you need a focal point to complement all your colour plantings. Tall and thin works best, and a few plants come to mind right away. 

ornamental grasses

Hardy ornamental grasses make great focal points. Japanese blood grass, dwarf pennisetums, and the architecturally beautiful calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, are just some of the superstars. Compact varieties of nandina like fiery red N. ‘Gulf Stream’ are grass-like and will last all winter.  Columnar Japanese holly, like the variety Ilex ‘Sky Pencil’, and euonymus ‘Green Spire’ have a unique look and make fabulous focal points.

As for ‘fillers’ that have impact, the winter-hardy evergreen carex grasses, like the always reliable variegated C. ‘Evergold’ is amazing, as is C. ‘Evervillo’ with its hot lime colour that’s truly ‘sunshine in winter.’ 

If you’re feeling for a little touch of blue, then the bluest of the blues is the ‘Beyond Blue’ fescue… it truly lives up to its name.

Heucheras come in a wide array of stunning colours, so there is sure to be one to match your colour theme as well. They prefer sun to part sun, so are a great candidate for corners of the garden that get a little less light.  

Although silvery dusty millers are not being used as often in our gardens these days, their silver colouring in fall and winter creates a nice ‘pop.’ Heathers are terrific in autumn plantings, not only because of their many new foliage colours, but also for their winter flowers that last until late spring. And don’t forget ‘Bud Bloom’ heathers that have flower buds that never open but look as though they have for months on end. They are quite remarkable. 

pansy flower

Into this mix, we need to of course inject some fall pansies to provide instant colour now and right on to the first hard frost. Then they pick up blooming again in February and continue into late spring and early summer. The ‘Matrix’ series is ideal because of their medium-sized blooms that just never quit, and their resilience in any weather. ‘Cool Wave’ pansies, like ‘Wave’ petunias, mound out to form a lovely carpet, and provide more interest with their prostrate habit than any other pansy. They are a must-try for baskets and containers! 

Now is also the time to enjoy fall chrysanthemums as nothing provides a more vibrant colour when planted among this array of supporting cast. Try to buy them in bud for the longest period of enjoyment and yes, they will come back next year if you do not pinch or prune them back. As early bulbs become available, be sure to plant some in your colour beds for a grand performance in spring.  

Some folks feel a bit of pressure to make their beds and containers ‘Insta-worthy’, but in our own gardens we are artists, and we don’t owe anyone an explanation! The most important thing is that you select those colours and textures that bring you joy. There has been a consistent trend since the spring of 2020 of folks seeking a mix of bright colours for their gardens, and we anticipate this trend to continue. Heck, even the Autumn/Winter 2021/2022 New York Fashion Week palette included each colour of the rainbow (there is a more subdued olive/white/cream/grey palette as well though, which is quite pretty)! So if a plant strikes you, go for it and enjoy!

chrysanthemum blooms