Magazine article Sunset

Big Autumn Color on a Small Scale

Magazine article Sunset

Big Autumn Color on a Small Scale

Article excerpt

* From a gardener's perspective, the only trouble with fall is that much of the color spectacle happens in the treetops. This year you can celebrate autumn by bringing some of the showiest foliage and flowers closer to eye level.

A variety of annuals and perennials bloom from summer or fall to frost. Complementing these flowers, many small-scale trees and shrubs put on a fine display of foliage or fruits. Fall is also the best time to plant many perennials and shrubs. Plants set out in fall require less water and get a head start on growth, establishing their root systems in the cool, moist soil. Check out the planting suggestions for beds and containers on the following pages, then draw up your own plans and get going.

SHOPPING TIPS

Flowers. Fall-blooming perennials are commonly available in 4-inch pots and 1-gallon cans. Florists' chrysanthemums and snapdragons are also sold in sixpacks. Choose plants with plenty of buds.

Shrubs and small trees. If you shop for plants before their leaves turn color, try to select hybrid or cultivated varieties known for their reliable autumn color (otherwise you may be disappointed). Sometimes the plant's name offers a clue about its fall performance: 'Bonfire' Japanese maple, for example. Of course, you can also shop for plants when their leaves have started changing color, but keep in mind that nursery growing conditions don't always produce optimal coloration. Shrubs and small trees are available in 1- and 5-gallon containers.

Accents and fillers. For tall accents in containers or borders, consider plants with bold foliage in autumnal hues, such as purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') and several varieties of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax). …

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