Falling into Fall Foliage

Margaret Michalak, Staff Writer

As the air gets colder and the leaves begin to change, the bright colors of summer fade. Many fear that this can bring dreary lawns and dreary days. However, with the right plants, anyone can spruce up their gardens and make their home fall-fabulous!

Autumn colors are some of the most beautiful, as red and orange leaves litter the ground and line the sidewalks. Come October, one fall favorite to bring out is mums; garden mums carry the season with classic autumn hues of orange, gold, russet and bronze. The combination of mums positioned with a nice, round pumpkin can be commonly overlooked, but there is nothing that says, “Welcome Fall!” like those two placed together on a porch.

Another wonderful way to keep color in our lives through the chillier season is planting some sumacs, which are native to North America and offer multi-season interest. The brilliant fall foliage and fuzzy red berry clusters that linger through winter make sumacs a go-to shrub for fall and winter color. Continuing with the theme of berries, this next plant’s name says it all—the native beautyberry. This berry offers a one-of-a-kind fall accent to any lawn or landscape. The bright purple color it carries won’t disappoint!

During the summer, hydrangeas are wonderful flowers to have around and the transition to autumn makes room for their sister plant, known as the oak leaf hydrangea. This shrub will warm up the cold mornings with fiery leaf tints and flowers of fading pink shades. Another summer plant that can carry over into the cooler months is the pansy. This annual is versatile in the garden and looks equally enchanting in containers or planting beds. Pansies can even bounce back from light frosts, making them perfect contenders for adding cool-season color.

To add a more delicate feel to the garden or house, consider Russian Sage; a beautiful plant with a resemblance to sage and lavender, the purple flowers atop grey, green stems will bring a lovely, gentle look to any garden, home or bouquet. Another light piece good for bouquets and gardens is the Goldenrod, or Solidago. It is a perennial that grows back each year, and its bright yellow flowers add color to a late summer garden. It is often thought to provoke allergies, but goldenrod pollen is innocent and actually does not. It is, however, a main attraction for many butterflies before they head south for the winter, and butterflies are always a welcome addition to any garden.

Through the end of the summer and into the fall months, long grasses are a pleasing addition to any landscape. The miscanthus grass is a flowing ornamental plant that shouldn’t be overlooked for outside decor. A variation of this grass is the Morning Light miscanthus, which adopts a reddish hue as autumn arrives. Another eye-catching grass is the Blue Fescue; its grasses bring motion, texture and often striking seed heads to autumn views. If space is tight, focusing on a tidy, upright grass like the ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass is a clean way to spruce up the yard. Its clumps are topped with wheat-colored seeds that complement a garden’s fall colors nicely. For a more flowing appearance, however, fountain grass comes in a variety of sizes and colors. The soft, bottlebrush-like seed heads enhance fall gardens and bouquets.

For a larger and more standout yard piece, Japanese maples are some of the most versatile trees for any yard, patio or garden. They are loved for their unique leaf shape and brilliant color throughout spring and fall. Brilliant fall foliage is what New England is known for, so why not add to the color explosion with a sugar maple? This classic autumn star has leaves that blaze in shades of yellow, red and gold and will provide glorious amounts of life and brightness outside. The fiery look can practically warm someone up on an especially crisp day.

With all these plants in mind, there’s only one more thing to do: buy them and plant them! These plants are available at the local garden center, nursery, Home Depot or Lowe’s. Keep in mind when buying them to pick out the plants that have healthy foliage and no roots sticking out of the bottom, as this means they are most likely rootbound. As potted plants mature, their developing roots eventually run out of space; when this happens, the plant becomes rootbound and it becomes tougher for it to grow in the soil when transplanted. When planting these shrubs, trees and grasses, there are a couple important notes to remember. Check the plant tag to see if the plant will grow best in shade or sun, then plant accordingly. Also, when planting into the ground, use compost to help feed the plant so it will grow bigger, brighter and stronger. Remember to water the plants and give them plenty of room to grow. Then, sit back and enjoy the garden’s new fall look.