Fall is by far my favorite season. The crisp autumn air, time spent in the deer woods, and football weekends all blend together to create a magical time of year. As we sit in mid-August now we approach those glorious days in yet another year. As peoples' minds begin to race with back to school plans, holiday agendas and the sprint to the finish line of yet another year, I want to talk to you about planting for fall.
There is no better time during the year to install new plants in the ground. Cool nights, warm days, increased moisture and time for root systems to establish before summer heat, all help create an environment for new plantings to thrive. While fall is a great time to plant, we should stop to consider WHAT plants to install that will showcase those beautiful autumn colors in your landscape. There are so many fantastic options that will provide colorful foliage, texture and beautiful flowers in your landscape.
Let me begin with an often overlooked landscape element - ornamental grasses. Grasses can provide your landscape with 3-4 season interest if they are left up all winter. Left standing through the winter they can provide shelter & food sources for wildlife while also adding a visual interest to the landscape. They sure do shine in the fall though! Their color and texture can be autumn show stoppers. Use them as focal points, foundation plantings, groundcovers and more! The switchgrasses and prairie dropseeds are great native options! Below are a few of my recommendations.
'Heavy Metal' Switchgrass
'Northwind' Switchgrass (pictured above)
Karl Foerster Korean Feather Reed Grass
Dwarf Fountain Grass
The anchor to our foundation plantings, the backdrop to many of our landscapes - shrubs can provide dramatic color each fall. The picture above highlights the brilliant fall colors of Dwarf Burning Bush. This has long been a staple for those looking for those fiery red colors in the autumn landscape, many referring to the shrub as a "fire bush". Despite all its fall colors, the burning bush is not without its issues.
Due to these issues, the burning bush is no longer a plant we recommend planting. The shrub is semi-invasive and while not listed on Ohio's Invasive Plant List it can still colonize in the wild leading to the crowding out of native plantings. There are many native and non-native options that can bring eye popping color to your landscape each fall. Some options to replace burning bush include Chokeberry, Viburnum, Itea, and Diervilla. Hydrangeas also provide great fall interest with their beautiful blooms. Leave the dried blooms on the stems until late winter/early spring! Below are some shrub options to brighten your fall landscapes:
Diervilla 'Kodiak Black' & 'Kodiak Orange'
Little Henry Itea
Hydrangea 'Little Lime' or 'Limelight'
Summersweet 'Vanilla Spice'
The fall color of the majestic hardwoods can be the ultimate fall highlight in landscape. This sugar maple in my front lawn provides brilliant color for a few weeks each fall. Trees are focal points - providing accent, height, structure. A well placed tree can bring years of enjoyment as well as anchoring your surrounding plantings.
The ash was beautiful example of a tree providing great fall color. Now most of those have been reduced to decaying wood due to the emerald ash borer. Another tree that was planted for fall color but presents a different issue is the flowering pear. Valued at one time for its showy spring blooms and burgundy/red fall color, the tree now presents a major landscape issue. The prolific reseeding of the pear has lead to an escape of the plant into not only the wild, but also all of suburbia, and the surrounding areas. These issues have lead it to being placed on the invasive plant list in Ohio. Many native options can give you both spring and fall colors such as Serviceberry, Dogwood, and Redbuds. A list of potential fall tree suitors for your landscape can be found below!
'Autumn Brilliance' Serviceberry (a favorite of mine)
Redbud (check out Lavender Twist if looking for a small weeping focal point in your landscape)
Gingko (make sure to get a male cultivar - the females fruits stink!)
Fall is unmatched in its beauty. I'm excited another fall is upon us! Whether you choose to make improvements in your landscape or you are looking for professional help from our wonderful Team, make sure you take some time to sit back and enjoy the fleeting autumn season! Happy leaf catching!