If you’re looking for an ornamental grass that delivers fall interest, check out Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha). Large, foot-long seedhead plumes soar above leaves in late summer, donning a pink tinge that matures to tan. Seedheads dry well and make a nice addition to dried arrangements, or let them age naturally in the garden where they’ll add interest all winter long. Korean feather reed grass likes moist soil and tolerates heavy clay soil. Cut plants to the ground in early spring. Leaves grow 36 inches tall and 20 to 24 inches wide. Seedheads stand 12 inches above leaves. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Like brunnera, bergenias are great for brightening up shady areas in your garden. Their small blooms are charming in a woodland setting, as a groundcover, in borders or in a cottage garden. Give the plants moist soil that’s rich in organic matter and shade to partial shade. They’ll bloom in spring. By fall, some of the leaves will turn brown, while others will become purplish-bronze. Remove the dead leaves, but let the others remain over the winter. Bergenia is hardy in zones 3-9. This variety is 'Pink Dragon'.
Cyclamen are native to the eastern Mediterranean, so spring's cool temperatures bring out their blooms. After the flowers fade, their leaves turn yellow and the plants go dormant. That's when many of us, thinking they're dead, throw our plants away. The tubers are actually just "resting," and need only enough water to keep from completely drying out until new leaves emerge in the fall. They tolerate sun or partial shade, but need protection from hot sun in the afternoons. This variety, ‘Victoria Deco Mix’ is from the Metis mini series and has dark green leaves marbled with silver, a sweet fragrance and unusual crowned flowers. Growers say this cyclamen, which is hardy in zones 5-9, is more vigorous in winter than other types.
Crape myrtle is a Southern classic, beloved for its endless show. Summer flowers, fall color and beautiful winter bark earn this beauty a place in every Southern yard. Flower colors vary, including ruby red, pastel lavender and snowy white. New varieties also offer wine-red foliage. Look for semi-dwarf varieties to find ones that qualify as small tree size. Examples include ‘Acoma’ (white, to 10 feet), ‘Delta Jazz’ (ruby red, to 10 feet), ‘Rhapsody in Pink’ (pink, to 12 feet), ‘Zuni’ (lavender, 6 to 10 feet) and Early Bird Lavender (6 feet). Semi-dwarf size: 6 to 12 feet tall by 3 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 7-10.
Some clematis showcase bicolor blooms. One of the most well-known in this category is ‘Nelly Moser.’ This beauty unfurls very big, 7- to 9-inch flowers in late spring and early summer, followed by a second bloom in early fall. Each blossom displays pale lilac petals with a glowing pink bar down the center. Colors tend to fade in full sun, so give ‘Nelly Moser’ a spot with light shade. Flower centers sport shades of deep purple. For best flowering, remove top growth by one-third in early spring. Vines grow 6 to 10 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Grow beside a porch where you can enjoy the bicolor blossoms on a daily basis. Hardy in Zones 4 to 8.
Kodiak Orange diervilla is a shrub for the ages. This native plant delivers bright leaf color all season long, drought tolerance, deer resistance and non-stop blooms. It’s also versatile, growing in sun or shade, including the tough environs of dry shade. Diervilla is undemanding—no pruning is needed to keep it in bounds. Leaves emerge orange and hold color through summer. Yellow flowers appear all summer long. Fall winds up the show with blazing orange-red leaves. Plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7. Good to know: Diervilla isn’t picky about soil, thriving in moist or dry locations. It’s a good choice for erosion control on slopes.
For summer bloom, turn to native, easy-care shrub sweetspire. Scarlet Beauty sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Morton’) unfurls long white flower clusters mid-June to early July, flooding summer days and nights with luxurious fragrance. Blossoms buzz with pollinator activity, including bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. This is a must-have plant for wildlife gardens. The fall color season unfolds slowly with leaves in shades of vibrant scarlet-reds and deep oranges that hit their peak in early November. Plants thrive in sun to shade, tolerate moist soil and grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9. Good to know: If pruning is needed, do so immediately after flowering, before blossom buds form on mature stems. In early spring, remove any stems that fail to leaf out.
A reminder that Atlanta environs can suddenly go from concrete jungle to tree-filled, natural oasis in a split second, this longtime area standard, Ray's on the River is an especially worthwhile stop in good weather (i.e. spring or fall) when you can dine on crab cakes, lobster mac and cheese, shrimp and grits and other high-end spins on comfort food with a relaxing view of the Chattahoochee River. Ray's is especially beloved as a buffet-style brunch option and while the prices are high and service can be uneven, for a special, scenic meal that takes in the city's natural beauty, it can be a worthwhile stop.
Go native with false indigo, a prairie plant that’s low maintenance and gorgeous. Pretty blue-purple flower spikes appear in late spring and make a great addition to a garden-fresh bouquet. Leaves have a blue-green tone that looks stunning in a vase—harvest stems all season long. Dried seedpods make a nice addition to fall arrangements. This is a tap-rooted perennial, which means it’s not easy to move once established. Plant it where you know it can stay put. False indigo offers different flower colors, including blends of blue, yellow, brown and white. The variety shown is ‘Blueberry Sundae.’ False indigo are deer-resistant plants that grow 4 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Good vase companions for false indigo: bearded iris, peony, clustered bellflower, purple coneflower and echibeckia.
Camellias steal the show when they burst into bloom, and Pink Perplexion is no exception. This is a sasanqua camellia, known for its small leaves and ability to grow well in containers and landscape beds. Pink flowers up to 3 inches across cover this beauty in fall. Those pink blooms boast a color that defies description, which is why it’s called Pink Perplexion. Give it a spot in part shade to full sun with acidic soil. Plants grow 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 7-9. Good to know: Sansanqua camellias take well to pruning and shearing. Best timing is after flowering, in spring, before new flower buds form on stems in summer.
Like many Atlanta suburbs, Marietta has embraced its historic downtown district and bulked up food and shopping opportunities for residents who may not want to drive into Atlanta for a great meal. Downtown Marietta including Marietta Square is home to some memorable restaurants and this fall 2018 the area welcomes a new food hall Marietta Square Market, to compete with Atlanta's on-fire food halls Krog Street Market and Ponce City Market. Housed in a former repurposed historic warehouse, Marietta Square Market, a 7-minute walk from Marietta Square, will feature a variety of restaurants with street tacos, baked goods, burgers, ramen, bubble tea and other au courant goodies on their menus. If your Marietta travel plans can wait, Swedish cult retailer IKEA is opening a Marietta outpost in 2019 or 2020.
If you don’t have room for a 50- to 100-foot tree, check out Hot Wings maple. It’s a type of tartarian maple (Acer tartaricum ‘GarAnn’) discovered and developed in Colorado, which means it tolerates dry, alkaline conditions. Trees open typical small, yellow maple flowers in spring after leaves appear. Flowers fade to form bright red seeds (helicopters) in summer, which contrast brilliantly with the green leaves. Fall color features shades of orange-red and yellow. This is more of a spreading maple that can be grown as a shrub or small tree. Expect trees to grow 20 to 25 feet tall and 18 to 20 feet wide in ideal conditions. At higher elevations, Hot Wings grows 15 to 18 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-10.
Bagworms are the larval form of a moth that attacks evergreens and other trees. The worm inside each bag feeds on the evergreen bush or tree, building a case around itself for protection from predators. The case is made from bits of the plant the insect is feeding on and slowly enlarges over time as the insect grows. Females lay eggs in the bags in late fall. The best control, if you only have a few bagworms, is to handpick the bags and drop them into soapy water or put them out with the trash. Predatory insects including wheel bugs or insect-eating birds will attack these insects, even inside their bags. You can also spray traditional or bioinsecticides. Follow directions carefully on timing. Once larvae are more mature and tucked into thicker bags, the chances of a spray reaching the worm itself are small.
A leaf rake comes in handy for moving leaves, pine cones, fallen fruit and other tree-related items. Look for an ergonomic design that makes the task an easy extension of natural body movements. Choose a wide head with springy tines to make quick work of cleaning large areas. For raking leaves from around shrubs, select a rake with a small head and shorter handle. Use a lawn rake with thin tines to gather grass clippings or clean up the lawn after winter. A bow rake is handy for soil prep in vegetable gardens and new beds, as well as raking gravel areas. A small hand rake earns its keep if you have planting beds beneath trees. Its widely spaced tines let you remove leaves without damaging plants.
A native maple, Pennsylvania striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) thrives in hardwood forests as an understory plant, a plant that grows best in the shade of tall trees. In your own yard, tuck striped maple into a spot with light to full shade. As the name hints, the bark on this maple features white stripes. Leaves have a trio of strongly pointed lobes, which give rise to another common name: goosefoot maple. This plant is also known as moosewood, because it’s a favorite food of moose (and deer). Fall color is vibrant yellow. Striped maple is the perfect addition to native planting designs or a wildlife garden. It thrives in moist, well-drained soil on the acidic side. Trees grow 15 to 25 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-7.
The four-lined plant bug attacks perennials, creating 1/16-inch square dead patches in leaves as they feed. These bugs create more of a cosmetic problem that plants often outgrow, but when numbers are high, the damage can lead to browned, misshapen and dying leaves, which you might mistake for disease. Four-lined plant bugs emerge about the time that forsythia leaves unfold. They’re shy and crafty hiders, so you’ll likely see the damage long before you spot one of them. The best way to control these bugs is twofold. First, in midsummer, when the insects disappear, cut back plants that have been attacked, snipping below the damage. This should remove any eggs that have been laid inside stems. Pruning like this delays flowering on perennials, but the plants will branch and become bushy, which means more flowers. Second, in fall, clean up all stems and leaf litter in the bed. Take care to remove all stems of plants the insect attacked during the growing season. Eggs that will hatch the following spring are typically laid inside those stems, so don’t add them to your compost pile.