Grand Finale

from Garden, Deck & Landscape
Make sure your flower garden designs last well into fall with these hardy, late-blooming plants. Get gardening advice for each one to make sure it succeeds.

Goldenrod’s (Soldago spp.) bright yellow bloom is a head-turning beacon amid fall’s browns, russets, and purples. Various species offer a range of heights and flower forms, but strong vertical character and bright yellow coloration are characteristic of most. Goldenrod has long been falsely blamed for late-season allergies, but ragweed, which blooms at the same time, is usually the true culprit. Many goldenrod species are hardy to Zone 5.
Tip: Plant goldenrod in tough sites—most types do well in poor soil.
Editor’s pick: Fireworks (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Zones 3–8) boasts shooting-starlike blooms.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Zones 3–10, top of photo, left, is one of the most reliable sources of fall color. These rugged plants are nearly indestructible, and their dusty-rose flowers are lovely. The bad news is that ‘Autumn Joy’, because of its merits, is overused. The good news is that there are other great late-season sedums (see below). Generally low growers, fall sedums work well as a complement to taller performers.
Tip: Because sedum plants aren’t particularly showy before they bloom, use them in mixed plantings where other species can carry the load until fall.
Editor’s picks: Sedum ‘Matrona’,
Zones 4–9, below, is an equally attractive, but somewhat less used, substitute for ‘Autumn Joy’.
For something different: Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’, Zones 4–9, has variegated foliage in addition to attractive fall bloom.

Asters (Aster spp.), bottom of photo, left, exhibit some of the most vivid fall coloration of any plant. However, in addition to vibrant purples and mauves, they come in softer hues such as white and pink. Plant form varies, too, from open, arching shapes to dense clumps or mounds. Asters often continue to bloom well after the first light frosts, and, as the last plants to bloom in some areas, they are a magnet for late-season lepidopterans. Many types are hardy to Zone 4 or 5.
Tip: Pinch back tall, upright asters in early summer to encourage denser growth and more bloom in fall.
Editor’s picks: New England (Aster novae-angliae) and New York (Aster novi-belgii) asters, both hardy in Zones 4–8, are rugged plants with a profusion of fall bloom in a range of colors.
For something different: Boltonia, (Boltonia asteroides, Zones 4–9), an aster relative, is also a late-season bloomer, with white or pink blossoms and a more delicate appearance.

Ornamental grasses offer interest most of the year but really come into their own in fall, when seed heads stand tall and autumn hues overtake green foliage. Especially graceful are taller types that sway in the breeze, such as feather reedgrass (Calamagrostis acutiflora, Zones 5–9), left.
Tip: Leave grasses standing all winter for season-long interest. Cut them back in spring before new growth emerges.
Editor’s picks: Silver feather (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’, Zones 4–9) displays graceful, showy seed heads. Dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides, Zones 6–9), below, is popular for its foxtail-shape seed heads.

Always popular as disposable plants, chrysanthemums, left, are less often considered for permanent garden residency. Not all types are winter-hardy, so confirm this before you buy. It’s worth the effort: Hardy varieties boast substantial fall flower power.
Tip: Pinch garden mums to produce compact plants with abundant blooms. When plants have grown 6 inches or so, pinch off shoot tips. After an additional 5 to 6 inches of growth, pinch again. You should be able to pinch once more, but do not do so after mid-July.
Editor’s pick: The Prophet Series of mums (most of which go by women’s names including ‘Lisa’, ‘Sarah’, and ‘Megan’) are tried-and-true, hardy (to Zone 5) garden mums available in a wide range of colors.

Shrubs with Fall Color
Fall leaf color often ranks low on the list of reasons for
choosing shrubs. But some shrubs, such as burning bush, rival any fall foliage in the landscape. Shop garden centers in autumn, and you’ll get an eyeful of colorful plants you wouldn’t have noticed a month earlier.

Fruit-bearing shrubs mature their bounty in fall, offering yet more color. Though more subtle than brightly colored blooms, fruits are attractive and a great lure for birds, too.
Tip: For a more dramatic fall display, prune your shrubs in a naturalistic fashion rather than shearing them.
Editor’s pick: Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica, Zones 6–9), below right, boasts lovely spring bloom as well as fabulous fall color. Try ‘Henry’s Garnet’ for an exceptional fall show.
For something different: Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica, Zones 4–9), a tough plant with outstanding fall color, is great for difficult sites. Purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma, Zones 6–8), below left, bears vivid purple fruit in fall.

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