Ferns are lovely in the fall, says Jan Johnsen, owner of New York-based Johnsen Landscapes & Pools and author of "Heaven is a Garden." When ferns turn to burnished gold or light yellow, it looks like a filigree of leaves in a soft, quiet fall scene.
The sweet gum tree's star-shaped leaves turn a mix of colors in the fall, making it a favorite for New York landscape designer Jan Johnsen. Sometimes the same tree can have red, purple, yellow and orange leaves, at the same time.
Fallen leaves mixed with hosta, coleus, Rozanne geraniums, heucheras, ferns and long-lasting annual flowers make a glorious tapestry in your fall garden, says Jan Johnsen, a New York-based landscape designer.
Dress up spent summer and fall container gardens with boughs of fresh evergreens for a colorful winter display. Greens like spruce, fir, mountain hemlock and Virginia pine retain color and needles to provide a long winter display. Treat cut greenery with an anti-transpirant to help stems retain moisture. Use bunched ornamental grass stems or bundled branches to add a strong vertical element to designs.
Trade out your tired patio tomatoes and peppers for cool season spinach, lettuces, kale and parsley. Mix them with pansies for an edible fall container planting, says Cameron Watkins of C. Watkins Garden Co.
Fall sedums bring strong multi-season interest to garden beds. Flowers shift colors as they develop from buds to open blooms. Faded flower clusters add color to winter scenery, too. Easy-growing sedum is rabbit resistant and a terrific pollinator plant, attracting butterflies and all kinds of bees. Site in full sun in well-drained soil. Drought tolerant plants grow 24 to 30 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
Digging is at the heart of gardening, and one of the quickest ways to tuck seedlings into soil is with a hand trowel. Look for trowels with an ergonomic design to lessen hand and wrist fatigue. Trowel blades with inch markings take the guesswork out of proper planting depth. Trowels that feature a seamless handle-blade design won’t break or fall apart. Other hand tools worth considering are a short handled pick mattock (for rocky soil); a Korean hand plow (often sold as a ho-mi and one of the most versatile tools ever conceived); and a sturdy weeder (cobra head type works like a gem).
If you’re a gardener who craves pure splashes of single colors, try something different this year. Mimic Mother Nature’s fall color show and treat yourself to a hanging basket planted with a mix of hues. The effect is truly a garden party in a pot. Cool Wave Mix Spreading Pansy delivers a just-right blend (designed by the seed breeders) that’s eye-catching and perfect for fall. Tuck a pot into the ground at least six weeks before frost, add extra mulch once the ground freezes, and you’ll be rewarded with early spring pansies. Cool Wave pansies handle temperatures as low as -13°F. They’ll look frozen solid during winter, and leaves and stems may turn brown, but watch what happens when spring peeks ‘round the corner. Of course, plants in pots won’t survive freezing temperatures.
Take advantage of warm and sunny fall afternoons to discover trees with outstanding fall color at a local arboretum or botanic garden. A local arboretum is an ideal place to learn what a tree’s mature form and size is in your region. This golden scene is from a grove of 300 gingko trees at Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce, Virginia, which is part of the State Arboretum of Virginia.
Freshly-cut dahlias from the garden at The Swag Country Inn near Waynesville, N.C., are tucked into a bark-covered pillar vase to create this lovely rustic centerpiece. Cockscombs and sunflowers purchased at a local farmers' market fill in the arrangement.
Even a tiny strip can be filled with plants, a more nature-friendly choice than gravel or wood chips, says Evelyn J. Hadden, author of "Hellstrip Gardening" (April 2014, Timber Press). A no-mow variegated sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Silver Sceptre’), in Newton Lower Falls, Mass., shows an great alternative to needy lawn.
Rod recommends starting small when planning your garden. Break your garden planning into pieces and test plants out before you plant them. Rod likes to place plants still in their pots where he wants to eventually locate them, to check the light conditions. If they do well, you can go ahead and plant them. His partner sometimes jokes about Rod's "black pot garden." Lisa Bartlett of Gramma B's is the landscape designer for this space. The topiary here is Juniperus procumbens 'Nana', and underplantings include dipladenia, Kong coleus and sweet potato vine. The vine on the pergola is wisteria floribunda, 'Amethyst Falls'.