8 GORGEOUS PLANTING COMBINATIONS FOR FALL GARDENS

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Presented by the National Association of Landscape Professionals in partnership with Houzz 

By Lauren Dunec Hoang

Fall’s the best time for choosing plants for their brilliant autumn foliage — they’ll be stocked in nurseries in all their splendor — as well as for planting trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses. These eight stunning combinations from New Mexico to the United Kingdom will provide you with planting inspiration for a colorful fall show.

 

Photo by Elemental Designs

 

1. Dazzling perennial border. The deep floral borders of this home in Sussex, England, celebrate the transition of summer into fall in all its glory. The blazing color palette of ruby red, deep purple, orange, gold and lavender creates a high-contrast display where the colors nearly vibrate in close proximity. Two red-leaved deciduous shrubs, ‘Grace’ smoke bush and ‘Lady in Red’ ninebark, stand backlit at the center of the bed, their leaves glowing like translucent jewels. Perennials such as dark purple ‘Ostfriesland’ sage, bright gold woolly sunflower, pale purple cranesbill and hot orange avens fill in the bed with saturated hues.

Plant Combination

  • ‘Grace’ smoke bush (Cotinus ‘Grace’, USDA zones 4 to 9, find your zone)
  • ‘Lady in Red’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Lady in Red’, zones 2 to 7)
  • Common woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum, Zone 3)
  • ‘Ostfriesland’ sage (Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’, zones 4 to 8)
  • Avens (Geum sp.)
  • ‘Rozanne’ cranesbill (Geranium ‘Rozanne’, zones 4 to 9)

Water requirement: Moderate

Light requirement: Full sun

 

Photo by Le jardinet

 

2. Layers of foliage and flowers. Tiers of fall foliage, ornamental grasses and late-blooming flowers create a rich tapestry of color in this Seattle garden. In the back and tallest tier, the deep red peeling bark of paperbark maple picks up the deep foliage color of ‘Rose Glow’ Japanese barberry and complements the pale brown seed heads of ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass. A dusty green-pink smoke bush brings large-leaf texture to the midlayer, while yellow-petaled, dark-centered black-eyed Susan and orange crocosmia add mounds of color to the lowest tier.

Plant combination:

  • Paperbark maple (Acer griseum, zones 4 to 8)
  • ‘Rose Glow’ Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Rose Glow’, zones 4 to 8)
  • Crocosmia (Crocosmia sp.)
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta, zones 3 to 9)
  • ‘Old Fashioned’ smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’, zones 5 to 10)
  • ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, zones 4 to 9)

Water requirement: Moderate

Light requirement: Full sun

Caution: Japanese barberry can be invasive in some areas (branches that touch the ground often root). Check with your local nursery before planting.

 

Photo by Bliss Garden Design

 

3. Fiery foliage. Fall leaves steal the show in this foliage-forward garden on Bainbridge Island, Washington. To the left, a rare Japanese maple cultivar called ‘Iijima Sunago’ turns from dark copper to bright orange in fall, while a second Japanese maple, ‘Hogyoku’, set farther back, changes from apple green to gold. Other border plants, such as burgundy Japanese barberry, a trio of ‘Gulf Stream’ heavenly bamboo with green leaves tipped with red, and pale yellow grasslike ‘Evergold’ sedge, add to the richness of foliage color.

Plant combination:

  • ‘Iijima Sunago’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Iijima Sunago’, zones 5 to 8)
  • ‘Hogyoku’ Japanese maple (A. palmatum ‘Hogyoku’, zones 5 to 8)
  • ‘Gulf Stream’ heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica ‘Gulf Stream’, zones 6 to 9)
  • Royal Burgundy Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Gentry’, zones 4 to 8)
  • ‘Evergold’ sedge (Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’, zones 5 to 9)
  • Woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus, zones 5 to 8)

Water requirement: Moderate

Light requirement: Full sun

Caution: Japanese barberry can be invasive in some areas (branches that touch the ground often root). Check with your local nursery before planting.

 

Photo by Bliss Garden Design

 

4. Burgundy and gold. In another area of the same Bainbridge Island garden, deep burgundy Japanese barberry and the dark-tipped seed heads of pale gold autumn moor grass form a moody border planting that sets off the brilliant foliage of a vine maple in the background.

Plant combination:

  • Autumn moor grass (Sesleria autumnalis, zones 5 to 8)
  • Royal Burgundy Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Gentry’, zones 4 to 8)
  • ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, zones 5 to 9)
  • Vine maple (Acer circinatum, zones 6 to 9)

Water requirement: Moderate

Light requirement: Full sun

Caution: Japanese barberry can be invasive in some areas (branches that touch the ground often root). Check with your local nursery before planting.

 

Photo by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC
 

5. Dynamic duo. A single standout fall foliage tree, Japanese stewartia, along with a tousled underplanting of golden Japanese forest grass, proves that less is more in this Massachusetts garden. Japanese stewartia offers four seasons of interest with bright green leaves in spring, white camellia-like blossoms in summer, a spectacular fall show and rich reddish-brown flaking bark in winter.

Plant combination:

  • Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, zones 5 to 9)
  • Golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, zones 4 to 9)

Water requirement: Moderate

Light requirement: Full sun

 

Photo by Waterwise Landscapes Incorporated

 

6. Fall color in the desert. High-elevation gardens in the Southwest can have fall foliage displays that rival other areas more known for seasonal color, as leaves of desert shrubs and trees turn from green to red and gold. In this low-water garden in Sandia Heights, outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, the golden leaves of skunkbush sumac glow against the pale purple flowers of Russian sage and the gray-green leaves of sage and lavender.

Plant combination:

  • Skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata, zones 2 to 9)
  • Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia, zones 5 to 9)
  • ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop (Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, zones 3 to 10)
  • Sage (Salvia sp.)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus sp.)

Water requirement: Moderate; low once established

Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade

 

Photo by Garden Stories

 

7. Windswept ornamental grasses. Inspired by the textures and colors of the foothills, this front yard in Portland, Oregon, features West Coast native manzanita and a variety of billowing ornamental grasses. Tall, orange miscanthus grass works in contrast with the deep burgundy of the spent blooms of ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop in the foreground. The punctuations of gold come from ‘Sundance’ Mexican orange.

Plant combination:

  • Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.)
  • Miscanthus (Miscanthus sp.)
  • ‘Autumn Joy’ stonecrop (Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, zones 3 to 10)
  • ‘Sundance’ Mexican orange (Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’, zones 7 to 10)

Water requirement: Moderate

Light requirement: Full sun

Caution: Mexican feather grass, shown in this photo, is identified as a highly invasive species in California and Oregon. Check with a local nursery before planting and do not plant next to open space. See five Western natives to plant instead.

 

Photo by Cottage Gardener, LTD

 

8. Patio show. This colorful Milwaukee garden features standout fall color from a mix of trees chosen for their fall foliage, plus ornamental grasses and colorful pots of mums placed around the patio for the season. At the back of the patio, a group of paper birch trees turn vivid gold in fall, forming a luminous backdrop for a fiery red Japanese stewartia tree, at the center.

Plant combination:

  • Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, zones 5 to 9)
  • Renaissance Reflection paper birch (Betula papyrifera ‘Renci’, zones 2 to 6)
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Mums (Chrysanthemum sp.)

Water requirement: Moderate

Light requirement: Full sun

 

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