Magazine article Sunset

Autumn Beauty

Magazine article Sunset

Autumn Beauty

Article excerpt

How to tune up your garden for a Late-season show

GORGEOUS FALL GARDENS peak after everything else burns out-and before the dark days of winter arrive. Maybe that's why we love them so much, and why garden designer Stacie Crooks puts so much effort into her own fall landscape.

Crooks succeeds by combining drought-tolerant perennials and grasses, all of them planted in autumn. "I lose only about 2 percent of my plants if I set them out in fall," she says, "but I lose 30 percent if I plant in spring."

She applies an organic 5-5-5 fertilizer with trace elements at planting time-the only feeding her plants ever get. "If the soil is healthy, the plants have everything they need," she explains. "Extra fertilizer just makes them grow too big." With this regimen, it took the perennials and grasses pictured here only two years to cover the planting beds completely.

After the first sharp frost, Crooks cuts perennials to the ground, but leaves the grasses for birds and winter interest.

Four great ideas from this garden

1. Prepare the soil first. "Everything starts with soil preparation," Crooks says. "It's about a third of the work I put into any project, and I won't buy a single plant until it's done. …

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