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Upper Midwest Gardening: Fall Plant Combos

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

It's the last chance for autumn color in your garden. Plant these combos for a fall finale that sizzles with excitement.

Serve up a hot-pink punch of blanket flower and Double Cascade Pink petunias.

I'm a sucker for fall color! After sizzling in the summer sun, gardens get tired and parched. But once the summer sun moves across the horizon and cooler temperatures replace the hot and humid air, it's an opportunity to take advantage of the season's last beautiful blooms. Here are some of my favorite combinations to keep gardens blooming before frost.

Gaillardia pulchella 'Red Plume' (known as blanket flower) is a late-summer classic in the Upper Midwest. Planted next to the double-petal petunia 'Double Cascade Pink', it screams for attention. And the red pentas bring a cluster of blooming color to the arrangement. 'Red Plume' blooms profusely and is a hardy annual that I love.

Zinnias explode in color from a container.

Zany for Zinnias
No matter how you mix them, match them or grow them, these hot bloomers are iconic in the fall garden — kind of the last gasp of brilliant color. Zinnias are the easiest annuals to grow. Either as transplants or seed-grown, they perform with outstanding color that can't be beat. I like to sow seeds from many varieties so I can cut a bouquet straight from the garden. Take a look at the photo. Does it get any better?

This tiered Pot O Pansies effectively shows off the dynamic colors.

Bigger Bang for the Buck
What's the fall season without pansies and violas? These cold-weather flowers are the last soldiers in the autumn garden. But there's more! Plant them now and not only will you enjoy them this season but they also will come back for a second performance in the spring. Whether planted in the ground or in pots, they are low-maintenance plants that need little attention. I filled pots with soil, pictured, then stacked them on top of each other. I planted pansies along the edges.

The single zinnia is hardly adrift in a rudbeckia sea.

Setting the stage for some fall glory is one lonely red zinnia, pictured, in a sea of rudbeckias and softened with a lavender flush of blooms from catmint. This combo makes you smile! It's bright and cheerful but in a calming sort of way. A great fall finale.

Ornamental grasses resemble flames of green in Midwest fall landscapes.

I would be remiss not to include ornamental grasses as one of fall's great garden fashionistas. They dance with decorative seed heads that attract birds and make great additions to fall bouquets and wreaths. A favorite here in the Upper Midwest is the stiff, upright Karl Foerster. The golden hues from the grass and seed heads set the landscape in a soft fire. And when the first flakes fly, leftover seed heads balance the soft white flakes on the seeming fragile stems, creating a wonderful sight for the eyes.