Ideas for an Alluring Autumn GardenAutumn is here and, in certain parts of the U.S., the nights become cool; and the sun, being lower in the sky, throws a vivid spotlight on trees and shrubs as they change into their cloaks of color. To celebrate this time of year, we provide ideas for creating alluring autumn gardens.
October is here and, in certain parts of the U.S., the nights become cool and the sun, being lower in the sky, throws a vivid spotlight on trees and shrubs as they change into their cloaks of color. The days sparkle with autumn sunlight and leaves, berries, cabbages, mums, and pumpkins capture our attention. We revel in this fleeting moment, knowing that autumn is, as William Cullen Bryant described, "the year’s last loveliest smile."
(Photo by: Jan Johnsen.)
The spell of autumn encourages an inward attitude which has inspired many writers, poets and artists over the years to exult in its colorful display and quiet moments. In the following photos, I offer ideas for an alluring autumn garden and have coupled it with an appropriate seasonal quote. This pairing celebrates the fall in the sweetest of ways, just like apple cider and cinnamon.
"There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky..." —Percy Bysshe Shelley (Photo by: Jan Johnsen.)
Have a bench? Let a friendly scarecrow take a seat. This one is not stuffed with straw but it evokes the same feeling. Replace your summer flowers with a deep red chrysanthemum as shown here. The contrast of the light-colored planter, red flowers, and dark evergreen background make a striking display. The bag of tulip bulbs on the bench is temporary—they are to be planted for next spring’s eye-catching display.
"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it...." —George Eliot (Photo by: Jan Johnsen.)
Anemone x hybrida (Japanese anemones), known as windflowers, are the stars of a fall flower garden. These Asian natives are perennials that bear large, single or double, cup-shaped blossoms featuring satiny petals and a gold central button. The pink 'Queen Charlotte' has flowers on 3-to-4-foot-tall stems in mid fall. Fall-blooming windflowers are hardy in Zones 5 through 9 and can add color to your garden from late summer to late fall. They thrive in full sun to part shade.
"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air." —Nathaniel Hawthorne (Photo by: Jan Johnsen.)
Limelight™ Hydrangea is an outstanding, hardy, and carefree shrub that continues to attract attention all the way into fall. Its chartreuse-to-lime flowers appear in early to midsummer and cover the 6-to-8-foot-tall shrub. As they mature, the large, 8-inch-long flowers darken to all shades of pink, and in the fall turn a rich rosy hue. When the blossoms fade, the Limelight™ foliage turns a burnished red. Grow them in Zones 4 through 8, in sun to light shade.
“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” —L.M. Montgomery (Photo by: Jan Johnsen.)
Place planters filled with varying colors of mums on steps for a warm, inviting welcome. Add variegated, green and white, trailing ivy and place small pumpkins in the pots for a seasonal look. The blue planters shown act as colorful accents. Note the wall lights set into the stone wall in this photo. In the evening, these louvered lights illuminate the steps and highlight the flowers to create a lovely effect.
"Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits." —Samuel Butler (Photo by: Jan Johnsen.)
The small ornamental tree, Cornus chinensis var. Kousa (kousa dogwood), is known for its early summer display of abundant white flowers. But in the fall it sports red, succulent fruit that resemble raspberries (they are not considered edible). The autumn display of these berries (see more berry-bearing plants) and the purple and scarlet fall leaves make the kousa dogwood a tree to consider for the fall garden. It has a beautiful form with horizontal branching. It grows in partial shade to full sun and grows to a height of 15 to 25 feet. It is hardy in Zones 5 through 8.
"After the leaves have fallen, we return to a plain sense of things. It is as if we had come to an end of the imagination, inanimate in an inert savoir." —Wallace Stevens (Photo by: Jan Johnsen.)
In a fall planter you can plant an evergreen boxwood and surround it with seasonal items. Although you may associate pansy flowers with spring, they are also used to add color in pots and beds in autumn. Here, small ornamental gourds and yellow pansies are combined with the dark green leaves and red berries of the Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen plant). The foliage of wintergreen has a strong minty scent when crushed, and the red fruits are aromatic.
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October." —Nathaniel Hawthorne (Photo by: Jan Johnsen.)
A shrub border featuring the deciduous Spiraea japonica ‘Goldmound’ (Japanese spirea) is dazzling in the fall. In spring the foliage on this 2-to-3-foot-tall shrub is a vibrant yellow, and in early summer clusters of pink flowers appear. The color of the leaves cool to a yellowish green in summer and in the fall they turn a rich golden yellow as shown here. It is a great color addition to any border, and you can even add it to a planter. It grows well in zones 4 through 8.
Jan Johnsen is a landscape designer (Johnsen Landscapes & Pools), author (Heaven is a Garden), and blogger (Serenity in the Garden). Jan is also a contributing editor for Garden Design magazine. Click here to learn more about what's in the magazine and subscribe today!