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Gardens That Glow: Plants With Fabulous Fall Color

Autumn’s Vibrant Palette

As the days grow shorter and the air turns crisp, the garden transforms into a mesmerizing display of color. While the towering maples, liquid ambers, and black oaks may steal the spotlight, there’s a whole cast of supporting players ready to take the stage and showcase their fabulous fall foliage.

Believe it or not, some of the most dazzling fall hues come from plants you might not typically associate with autumn’s vibrant palette. Penstemon, celosia, wood asters, and even peonies can light up the landscape with their brilliant fall displays. And the best part? Many of these unsung heroes are tough, drought-tolerant, and deer-resistant, making them ideal additions to any garden.

As a passionate gardener, I’ve been on a mission to uncover the hidden gems of the fall garden. From the glowing yellow of my Ginkgo tree to the fiery orange-red of my Variegated Smokebush, I’ve learned that with a little planning, you can create a season-long symphony of color. And I’m excited to share my findings with you, dear reader, because I firmly believe that everyone deserves a garden that glows.

Unexpected Autumn Superstars

Penstemon: A Foliage Chameleon

One of my favorite perennials, the penstemon, is a true chameleon when it comes to fall color. In spring, its deep burgundy foliage is a striking contrast to the lavender flowers. As summer rolls in, the leaves take on a more olive-green hue, only to transform once again in autumn into a rich, luscious garnet.

The variety I’ve had the most success with is ‘Midnight Magic,’ but I recently spotted a towering newcomer called ‘Flamingo Feathers’ that had me slamming on the brakes. This 4-5 foot celosia boasts feathery, hot-pink blooms that dance atop foliage that shifts from green to dark peach as the seasons change. It’s a true showstopper that I can’t wait to add to my garden next year.

Wood Asters: Soft and Subtle

While they may not grab the headlines like their flashy maple cousins, wood asters (Eurybia divaricata) deserve a spot in the fall garden. These shade-loving perennials quietly cover the ground with their delicate, white flowers in late summer, only to surprise you with a stunning display of soft plum tones as autumn approaches.

Paired with the golden amber foliage of a nearby peony or the playful burgundy of a ‘Midnight Magic’ penstemon, the wood aster becomes a true scene-stealer, proving that sometimes the most captivating fall color can be found in the quieter corners of the garden.

Solidago: Bold and Bright

When it comes to fall color, you can always count on the solidago, or goldenrod. While these hardy perennials are typically known for their vibrant yellow blooms, many varieties also put on a dazzling foliage show as the temperatures drop.

‘Fireworks’ and ‘Little Lemon’ are two of my personal favorites, with the latter keeping its sunny hues well into the season. The compact ‘Little Lemon’ is perfect for the front of the border, while the taller ‘Fireworks’ makes a bold statement when placed alongside other autumn stunners.

Underappreciated Autumn Shrubs

Peonies: Fabulous Fall Foliage

When it comes to peonies, we often get so caught up in the captivating spring blooms that we forget about their autumn allure. But depending on the variety, these herbaceous beauties can reward us with gorgeous garnet or golden amber foliage come fall.

I love how the fiery peony leaves contrast with the soft plum tones of the nearby wood asters, creating a stunning three-season display in my garden. It’s a reminder that sometimes the true stars of the fall garden aren’t the ones that demand all the attention.

St. John’s Wort: Autumn’s Warm Embrace

Another shrub that often flies under the radar when it comes to fall color is the St. John’s Wort. My personal favorite, ‘Sunburst,’ starts the year with dramatic, glaucous foliage that rivals the impact of its sunburst-yellow flowers. But as autumn rolls in, the leaves transform into a warm medley of apricot, amber, and red, lighting up my garden before the winter slumber.

Aphrodite: A Diva for All Seasons

If there’s one shrub that deserves a year-round standing ovation, it’s Aphrodite. This drought-tolerant, deer-resistant beauty boasts enormous, lime-green leaves that shrug off the heat and never seem to skip a beat. But just when you think it can’t get any better, autumn arrives, and Aphrodite’s foliage takes on a stunning red hue, complementing its deep ruby-red spring blooms.

It’s a plant that truly embodies the spirit of Today’s Gardens – tough, adaptable, and downright gorgeous, no matter the season.

Therese Bugnet: A Rugosa Rose with Autumn Flair

While roses are renowned for their spring and summer displays, the Therese Bugnet rugosa rose proves that these classics can hold their own in the fall garden too. With its fragrant, lipstick-pink flowers and intense autumn color, this large, rambling shrub is a true showstopper.

Give it a few years to establish itself, and you’ll be rewarded with foliage that glows in shades of amber, orange, and red, creating a perfect addition to any autumn landscape.

Sweetspire: A Graceful Autumn Finale

As summer fades, the Sweetspire, or Itea, steps into the spotlight. Varieties like ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and ‘Little Henry’ start the year with green leaves and delicate, white flower spikes that sway in the breeze. But come fall, they transform into deep ruby-red gems that shine until the final curtain call.

Deer-resistant, heat-tolerant, and low-maintenance, the Sweetspire is the perfect way to bid farewell to the gardening season in style.

Autumn’s Unexpected Superstars

Grapevines: A Unique Fall Performer

While grapevines may be better known for their summer fruit production, they can also put on a stunning fall foliage display. I had the pleasure of growing a magnificent Vitis californica ‘Rogers Red’ in my previous garden, where it scrambled over an arbor and blanketed my aviary in a breathtaking show of autumn colors.

The tiny grapes may not be the most practical for eating, but if you have the patience, they make for delicious homemade juice. And the show-stopping fall foliage is more than worth the effort.

Ornamental Grasses: Autumn’s Understated Elegance

Don’t let their humble beginnings fool you – ornamental grasses can be true autumn standouts. My Miscanthus ‘Oktoberfest’ has been putting on a fiery orange display all season long, providing a stunning counterpoint to the bold reds and yellows of my other fall favorites.

And the pink plumes of the Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) add a delicate, airy touch to the autumn garden, swaying gracefully in the cool breeze.

A Feast for the Senses

As I stroll through my garden, taking in the vibrant hues and textures of autumn, I can’t help but feel a sense of wonder and gratitude. The towering maples and liquid ambers may capture the headlines, but it’s the unsung heroes – the penstemon, the wood asters, the Sweetspire – that truly make my heart sing.

These plants, with their unexpected autumn displays, remind me that the true beauty of the fall garden lies in its diversity and ability to surprise. So as you plan for next year, I encourage you to think beyond the usual suspects and explore the wealth of plants that can transform your outdoor space into a true autumn oasis.

After all, when it comes to gardens that glow, the more variety, the merrier. So get out there, get planting, and get ready to be dazzled by fall’s fabulous foliage.

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

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