Tag Archive for: fall garden

Coordinating Color for a Fantastic Fall Garden

One of the most difficult things to do when designing a garden bed or container is figuring out which plant combinations to use. With so many beautiful plant types and varieties to choose from, how do we narrow it down to a few that will really look great together? Quite often, we end up gravitating towards plants that catch our eye, but end up clashing in the garden. The fall can be especially overwhelming, with the bold reds, crisp yellows, and bright oranges of the season. It is easy to get carried away with all the new colors that the season offers. By no means does this mean you need to shy away from them. As a landscape designer, I often refer back to the basics of color theory to inspire and direct beautiful color combinations in the garden. You too can use these guidelines to create a stunning display of fall color!

The Basics of Color

Just like selecting a wall paint or window dressing for your living room, carefully combining colors in an outdoor space can help you create a cohesive design composition. Here are the three basic color combinations that I often refer to during the design process (discussed in more detail below):

  • Monochromatic
  • Analogous
  • Complementary

These color schemes are formed based on the color wheel, which many of you are probably familiar with:

The color wheel depicts primary (yellow, blue, red), secondary (orange, green, purple), warm (yellow, red, orange) and cool (blue, green, purple) colors.  Complimentary colors are those that opposite each other on the wheel.

Combining Colors for Fall Beauty

You can use color theory to combine plants in any way you want at any time of year. Since it’s fall, I’ve selected a few of my favorite seasonal plants to illustrate monochromatic, analogous, and complimentary schemes. These plants look beautiful together, but by separating out the plants we can create a variety of distinct styles in our gardens.

Boxwood, heuchera, japanese stiltgrass

Monochromatic with Green Foliage

A monochromatic scheme incorporates only one color and its values. By selecting various shades, we can create a strong, cohesive visual effect. One of the most commonly used monochromatic designs in landscaping is variations of green in a shady part of a garden. Using green in these spaces enables us to use a wide variety of shade-friendly foliage plants. The combination pictured above includes boxwood, liriope, a green foliage heuchera, and a fern.

Burning Bush, Mums, Pumpkins

Analogous with Red and Orange Foliage, Blooms and Pumpkins

Analogous colors can be found next to each other on the color wheel. Using this combination creates a pleasingly harmonious variation. Color combinations of this type generate a pleasing energy in the garden without using too many colors. Here, I’ve combined orange and red for a display of fall color using pumpkins, mums and a burning bush.

Boxwood, Mum, Heuchera, Liriope, Fern

Complementary Colors

Pair the opposing colors on the color wheel for an undeniably bold approach to gardening. Complementary colors “complement” each other by making the other color appear more intense. If you are looking for a high energy space, pairing complementary colors in your garden is a great start. In a fall garden, combining red and green is a great choice. In the photo above, I’ve paired the green foliage of liriope and boxwood with the red foliage of heuchera and the red blooms of fall blooming mums.

Have Fun and Try a Variety of Combinations

While the color schemes used in this post are a great starting point, I always encourage gardeners to try out whatever color scheme makes them happy. The point is to have fun with color and make a beautiful garden you love!

Fall container, pansy, ornamental cabbage, creeping Jenny

Creating Containers for Fall and Winter

Containers are changeable, moveable and groupable, but most importantly, enjoyable. They can be tailored from formal to naturalistic and anywhere in between. As the weather cools and we welcome the fall season, I always get excited about playing with plants in containers and combining annuals and perennials that I can enjoy immediately and even into winter. This year, I’m creating fall containers including annuals for fall color, plus biennials and perennials that will last through winter. These arrangements will last for two seasons: the annuals can be removed when the frost takes them, leaving space for your biennials and perennials to grow. Here are a few of my favorite plant selections that combine beautifully in fall containers:

Fall Container Annuals

Perennials: (1) Schizachyrium, (2) Gaura, (5) Dusty Miller,  (8) Aster, (9) Juncus, (11) Euphorbia, (12) Mums; Annuals: (3) Crested celosia, (4) Ornamental pepper, (6) Calibrachoa, (7) Petunia, (10) Celosia ‘Intenz’ (13) Calibrachoa

Shade Plants for Containers

Perennials: (1) Heuchera (coral bells), (2) Carex, (3) Schizachyrium ‘Standing Ovation’, (4) Fern

If you love your fall season annuals, you can easily lengthen their life span by covering your containers with lightweight frost cloth when frost is predicted. Depending upon the weather, this can take your fall annuals into November in our area.

Container Designs

Clockwise from top: Juncus ‘Blue Arrow’, Kale ‘Redbor’, Pansy, Lysimachia ‘Aurea’ (creeping Jenny), Celosia ‘Intenz’ The plume-like blooms of celosia, graceful height of juncus, and earthy texture of kale combine beautifully to thrill the eye in this container. Bloom-rich pansies help fill the space, while the bright greens of creeping Jenny pull your eye down the container with its graceful spill. Annual celosia will die back with frost, leaving room for the rest of these plants to fill the container. All of these plants are sun loving and require a minimum of 5 to 6 hours of sun per day.

Shade container, Pansy, Heuchera, Fern, Creeping Jenny

Clockwise from top: Cryptomium (Japanese Holly Fern), Lysimachia ‘Aurea’ (creeping Jenny), Sedum ‘Angleina’, Pansy, Heuchera (coral bells) The fronds of cryptomium add height and thrill the eye in this container, providing beautiful evergreen foliage throughout the seasons. The variegated foliage of perennial heuchera and abundant blooms of pansies fill the central space while perennial sedum and creeping Jenny spill over the edge of the container. This tonal color palette is beautiful in part shade to full shade conditions. All of the plants here prefer to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun.

Pyramid Fall Container

Clockwise from top: Pumpkin tower, Ornamental peppers, Sedum ‘Lemonball’, Pansy, Carex One of my favorite tactics in designing fall containers is to add height and tons of seasonal interest using a tower filled with small pumpkins and gourds. The fall colors of bright orange and yellow lead the eye down the tower into a base filled with contrasting foliage and blooms. In the base, variegated pansies and ornamental peppers fill the space while carex and sedum spill over the edge of the container. To transition this container into the holidays and winter months, simply remove the ornamental peppers that will die with the frost and spray your pumpkins and gourds shades of gold, silver and bronze.

Caring for Your Containers

Here are some basics that assist in winter hardiness for plants and pots:

  • Size matters. Containers that are at least 14” in diameter increase your chance of success as higher volumes of soil improve the roots protection from the cold. I have had good luck with both well-fired pottery and ceramic containers when they are placed on a deck, patio or elsewhere on a piece of slate.
  • Remove any saucers before winter. If the water collects and freezes, it will break the pot.
  • Lightly fertilize with a slow release fertilizer, such as Espoma plant tone or Merrifield Flowering Plant Food. Heavy fertilization will encourage too much growth as winter approaches.
  • Though I rarely water in winter, if your containers are in full sun you may need to water if the soil is not frozen.