Fall swaggers into town with a colorful flourish in the Mid-Atlantic. Trees trade summer green for fiery autumn hues, and flower gardens explode with late-season fireworks. Some seasonal color combinations are pure serendipity such as this duet (above) of a maple leaf on dianthus.
To design plant combinations for fabulous fall color, mix and match annuals, perennials, tropicals and container gardens. Check out some of my favorite fall combinations.
Fall Combination No. 1: Annual and Perennial
Some annuals shine in autumn, including pink spider flower (Cleome hassleriana). By fall it's still opening blossoms, while whiskery seedpods ripen.
I pair it with perennial 'Fireworks' goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), pictured, a shorter goldenrod that spreads less aggressively. This gold perennial is ideal for a wildlife or butterfly garden.
Fall Combination No. 2: Herb and Tropical
By late October pineapple sage blooms steadily, if frost hasn't arrived. The plant's red flowers sparkle against burgundy canna leaves, pictured.
After frost zaps tropical canna foliage, I cut stems to soil level and dig tubers for winter storage. To overwinter pineapple sage, take stem cuttings, root them in water, and plant.
Fall Combination No. 3: Perennial and Container Plants
Perennial blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) stirs fall interest in my front garden with its eye-catching fruit.
The shiny berries dazzle against a backdrop of orange garden mums, white ornamental cabbage and purple sweet alyssum.
Fall Combination No. 4: Ornamental Grass and Berried Shrub
As temperatures tumble, ornamental grass 'Morning Light' miscanthus (M. sinensis) fades to gold. Brown seed heads shift to pale beige by December's serious snowfalls.
Miscanthus pairs beautifully with berried amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), above. Unfortunately amur honeysuckle is invasive in parts of the Northeast. (This was planted by a previous owner.) A good replacement shrub would be American cranberrybush (Viburnum trilobum) at 15 ft; or the dwarf Viburnum trilobum 'Bailey Compact' at 3 to 6 ft. In fall the dwarf offers clusters of red berries and pink-burgundy leaves.
To blend autumn combinations, check out which plants stage a strong fall showing in your yard this year. Then upgrade next year's performance from solo to duet by planting partners this fall.