In fall I feel so fortunate to live in the Northeast, where people travel to see the beauty in the changing of the seasons. This is a time of year when plants native to the Northeast really shine with a variety of vivid colors. When designing a landscape, Catherine Volić takes care to consider how plants look with their fall foliage, so you can enjoy the contrasting colors of the season in your own space. Clients are often pleasantly surprised by the dramatic changes they see as fall arrives. Even when summer blooms are finished, fall brings plenty of color and beauty to a well-planned garden.
In fall, this bed bursts with color and texture. In the front, our native little bluestem grass shows off soft seed heads and buff blades, set off by the silver needles of a low-growing version of our native Eastern red cedar. Hydrangeas provide yellow foliage and native ninebark shrub displays maroon leaves against the dark fence. Burnt-orange mums fill in the foreground.
Here, the fastigiate form of a blue-green native white pine tree really stands out among deciduous trees. Catherine loves to mix evergreens into gardens to provide moments of contrast in fall, as well as greenery throughout the winter.
In the upper left-hand corner of this picture the native sweet bay magnolia tree provides a great backdrop for the bright yellow foliage of the native summer sweet bush and dark red foliage of the native sweet spire. Sweet bay magnolia holds its leaves all winter, but is not technically an evergreen since it drops its leaves in spring as the new leaves emerge.
Evergreens provide a welcome frame for bright, changing foliage - this time for a native black gum on the left-hand side of this scene. Against the house native summersweet and native sweetspire are planted for contrasting yellow and maroon color. In the back, a scarlet oak tree lives up to its name with a vivid hue.
In this picture, a pathway, framed by feather-textured bluestar, leads back to a native sugar maple, one of the trees best known for gorgeous fall color here in the Northeast. Bluestar is grown for blue flowers in spring, but is also grown for bright gold fall foliage.
Even close-up views can display a wide range of color. A Kousa dogwood forms an orange umbrella over a deep plum PJM rhododendron (right) and kaleidoscopic native fothergilla shrub (left). The PJM will hold its leaves and plum color all winter long. A line of native inkberry holly bushes against the house provides an evergreen border.
Larger scale plantings provide stunning blocks of color. On the left we see a native sourwood tree in shades of yellow and orange in front of dark green rhododendrons. On the right, a golden sugar maple and a bright red maple stand in front of an evergreen concolor fir.
In this picture, golden amsonia foliage sits beside one of the few fall-blooming flowers, our native blue aster. Yellow, star-shaped sweetgum leaves sit playfully on top. Fall blooming asters come in different sizes and range from white to dark purple.
Changing scenery in fall really sets off contrasting textures in a garden. An ornamental, buff-colored grass and a small-needled dwarf spruce soften the hard lines of the boulders used to make this natural terrace garden.
After a summer of bright pink blooms, rugosa roses have vibrant red rose hips and striking golden foliage. Even plants best known for summer flowers give new life to a garden in fall.
There are so many options to include fall color in your landscape, and native plants bring some of the best foliage of the season. Catherine designs landscapes with yearly cycles in mind, and it is a pleasure to watch how different plants are highlighted as the seasons flow through each planting. It brings a real sense of movement to what could feel like an unchanging planting. We hope you enjoy the rich views of this season, both out in nature and at home.
- Liz P, Horticulturist at Sweetgum Horticulture