You may think that the beginning of autumn means it’s time to say goodbye to your garden. Not so! By choosing plants with late-season ornamental features, you can extend the beauty of your garden for many months to come. Here are some of our favorite plants that get fancy in fall.
TREES AND SHRUBS
Red-Twig Dogwood (Cornus): This shrub provides year-round interest but really earn their keep in autumn and winter. It features white spring blossoms, variegated leaves during summer, and berries from summer to fall, but as temperatures dip and it drops its leaves, its twigs become a bright, cardinal red. Backdropped by fresh snow, it is a glorious site in winter. Grown in masses is particularly effective.
Maple (Acer): A large, easy-care tree that produces lush, green leaves in summer, and a magnificent show of vibrant color in autumn. The Sugar Maple’s sap and seeds are prized by birds, so they are a great way to attract birds to your yard as well. Extremely long lived. And you can even use the Sugar Maple for delicious maple sugar! We currently have beautiful Red Pointe, Burgundy Belle, Fall Fiesta, and Sugar Maples.
Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum) are highly prized for their fall foliage. You can choose bright reds, oranges, yellows, or limes, and choose a dwarf, shrub, or tree variety. There is a large range of options with these plants, all of which are beautiful.
‘Seven Sons’ Heptocodium: This shrub features lovely white flowers in September. Petals drop from the bracts, that then turn a lovely raspberry color by October. Its foliage becomes wonderful shades of lemon and lime, and the whole plant put on a great show through late fall.
Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata): This deciduous shrub is native to the eastern U.S., and produces bright red berries in the fall that persist through the winter and into spring. Not only do the berries add important color to winter landscapes, but they also lure in colorful birds that love to feed on the prolific red berries. An absolute all-star as leaves fall and gardens sleep.
Gingko biloba are living fossils essentially. The order to which it belongs, Ginkgoales, first appeared in the Permian period, 270 million years ago. The order now only contains this single genus and species, meaning this plant is literally one of a kind. It has gorgeous, quivering green leaves in spring and summer, and then amazes yet again in autumn by turning a bright lemony gold. A magnificent, singular plant that only gets better in autumn. Can be found in small and large tree form.
Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus): These beauties often get overlooked in spring when dogwood, magnolia, cherry, and crabapple trees steal the show, but Fringe Tree offers a second show in the fall. Not only does it produce its glorious white fringe flowers in spring, but female plants produce gorgeous berries in the fall. Additional Bonus: They are native to New England, and host our region’s wildlife.
Dwarf American Cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. americanum): This North American native offers ornamental interest throughout the seasons; flowers in spring, red fruit in late summer and intense, spiced shades of yellow, orange, and red fall color. Moderate in size.
Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia): These elegant trees are unbeatable for four-season interest, and ongoing chapters of beauty. A slow-growing, deciduous tree that matures to 20-40′ tall. Cup-shaped, Camellia-like white flowers with showy orange-yellow anthers appear in early summer and become lovely lingering fruits. Dark green foliage turns shades of reddish-orange and burgundy in autumn. Exfoliating bark provides good winter color and interest.
Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) are single trunk, deciduous trees. Oval to oblong leaves emerge reddish-purple in spring, mature to a lustrous, dark green in summer and change to variable shades of yellow, orange and red in fall. The bark of mature trees exfoliates to show green, white or tan patches beneath and provides good winter interest.
Deutzia: A low-growing shrub with bright green leaves on arching branches, that becomes a wonderful and very showy accent when covered by white or pink blooms in spring. Foliage can turn shades of lime and burgundy in fall. These shrubs are ornamental during the winter season too, with bark that peels back to reveal a reddish-orange color underneath.
Fothergilla are deciduous, Eastern U.S. natives that are truly spectacular, four-season shrubs. In early April the white, white bottle-brush blooms appear with their delightful, honey-like fragrance. Flowers typically last for 2-3 weeks, and then are replaced by beautiful, green to blue-green, quilt-like foliage. The fall brings the showiest display, taking on golden-yellows, bright oranges and intense reds. Weather conditions greatly influence the autumn coloration each year, with the amount of sunlight, rainfall and temperatures all playing a role.
Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) is a deciduous shrub, 6-12 ft. tall. Glossy, somewhat blue-green, and aromatic leaves turn orange, red, purple and yellow in the fall. Yellowish catkin-like flowers precede dark-red berries which persist into March.
Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica): An imposing, deciduous tree, Nyssa grows 30-60 ft. or taller, with horizontally spreading branches. A handsome ornamental and Northeast native, its juicy fruit is consumed by many birds and mammals. It ignites with red and orange leaves in autumn and becomes a tower of breath-taking color.
Ornamental Grasses provide upright and graceful foliage that takes on beautiful shades of color in autumn. Many mature grasses will produce showy plumage in the fall as well. Even dormant and dried grasses look great in the winter.
Asters provide charming clusters of small, daisy-like flowers in lovely rich colors throughout the autumn months, and can be found in varied sizes. Many varieties are native to New England, and pair beautiful with pumpkins, gourds, and other fall favorites. Great for a perennial garden or used in a container.
Sedum (a.k.a. Stonecrop) are late-season heroes. These versatile perennials succulents produce green flower heads at a slow and steady through summer, which then blush more intensely with color as temperatures decline. Colors can include blues, reds, yellows, and greens – even variegated. You can find spreading, grounding-hugging, or even upright ones that take on a more shrubby appearance. Loved by pollinators too.
Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii): In spring, it features sweet, clustered baby blue flowers, and then in summer it becomes a verdant grass green pillow. And then in fall, the needles turn to limes and reds, and then a bright lemon yellow, lasting into early winter. There is never a week when it isn’t offering some sort of decoration to your overall garden.
Japanese Variegated Iris (Iris variegata): Iris can be an unexpected source of interest in the fall. Many people love this plant’s purple blooms in summer, but it’s the plants foliage that really adds value. The contrast of the stripes on the blades becomes more intense as temperatures cool, and its white stripes add a clean, upright, fresh look to the garden, when many other perennials have turned brown and faded.
Montauk/Nippon Daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) are very popular for providing daisy-like flowers throughout the autumn months. They are larger than your typical Shastas, forming an 18-36″ mound, so you only need one or two plunked in a well-chosen spot to make a nice visual impact.