A Standing Ovation for Fall Colour

As the lazy days of summer grow to an end, the colour in your garden doesn't have to follow suit. Fall is an exceptional time for garden lovers, where late blooming plants are the last big bang for the season before the snow tucks them in for the long, harsh Canadian winter. It is almost as though they need all season to store up energy for their big grand finale. Standing tall with masses of rich luxurious colours, fall perennials do command your attention as the rest of the garden fades. It is pretty hard to walk by and not take notice. Being Canadian and known for our gorgeous autumn, we have a responsibility to enhance and prolong our renowned season.

In today's market there is an incredible variety of fall colour to choose from. Whether you want height, colour, foliage or even hardiness, there always seems to be something to strike your fancy. Fall colour no longer is limited to Asters and Mums. I mean, if that is what you like, that's perfectly okay, but for those a little more adventuresome, the selection is endless. No gardener likes to see their plants disappear to our inevitable winter, which is why we tend to prolong the growing season as long as humanly possible. For the homeowner, consider the addition of shrubs, ornamental grasses and annuals to enhance your late blooming perennials.

Annuals: These following annuals tend to be cool season and perform great during spring and fall but do not do a whole lot through the summer. I suggest inter mixing them either throughout the garden, with display pots or with hot weather annuals to disguise them while they are not so interesting. Planting them in pots alone is because when the hot weather comes, you can do what I do and simply put them to the back of the other pots until the weather gets cool again and presto! In the fall I bring them back out the front for the main attraction.

  • Dahlia (Dahlia sp.)
  • Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)
  • Marigolds (Tagetes sp.)
  • Icicle pansies (Viola sp.)
  • Summer Cypress (Kochia)
  • Sunflowers (Helianthus)
  • Red fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum "rubrum")
  • Plumed Celosia (Celosia cristata)
  • Ornamental cabbage (Kale sp.)

Perennials: Fall perennials usually tend to be quite tall and stately which makes them great for a backdrop to summer favorites and to add height to a border. Very rich colours that will persist right through the first few frosts. A lot of summer blooming plants will produce fall colour if cut back to the ground as soon as flowers fade. Re-blooms are not as big and fanciful as the first time around, but are always welcomed and appreciated.

  • Japanese anemone (Anenome x-hybrida)
  • Russian sage (Pervoskia atriplicifolia)
  • Black Snakeroot (Cimicifuga ramose "Brunette")
  • Sneezeweed (Helenium amarum)
  • Turtlehead (Chelone oblique)
  • Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)
  • Yellow wax bells (Kirengeshoma)
  • Toadflax (Tricyrtis hirta)


Ornamental Grasses: Grasses tend to be in a league all their own because they are so diverse. They can be a mass, specimen, annual, garden compliment and/or winter interest. The choice today far exceeds the Blue Fescue and Karl Foerster of yesterday. Today's water concerns make these drought tolerant, low maintenance beauties a quick pick.

  • Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon semp.)
  • Silver Feather Maiden Grass ( Misc. sinensis "Silberfeder")
  • Black Mondo (Ophiopogon plan. "Nigrescens")
  • Hakone Grass (Kakonechloa macra "Aureola")
  • Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrical "Red Barron")
  • Dwarf Zebra Grass (Misc. "Zerbrinus")
  • Purple Moore Grass (Molina caerulea)

Shrubs: The back bones to a great garden are the shrub selections. They anchor a planting and visually lead you from one area to the next. Their fall colour foliage should do the same thing. Shrubs usually take a back seat to the ever- blooming, colourful annuals, and endless parade of perennial splendor through the spring and summer; it's time to let the shrubs colour our way into the winter.

  • Service Berry (Amalanchier)
  • Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina "Lacinata")
  • Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)
  • Diablo Ninebark (Physocarpus "Diablo")
  • Diane Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia "Diane")
  • Corkscrew Hazel (Corylus avellana "Contorta")
  • P.G. Hydrangea (P.G.Hydrangea)
  • Dwarf Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus compactus)
  • Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster Winterberry (Ilex vericllala)

Well, as the suggestions show, there are lots of choices and no excuses not  to show your fall colour spirit. Living in Ottawa means having to endure a long and cold winter, so why not make every gardening moment count when we have it. Don't let the winter take your garden, have your garden greet the winter. Always save the best for last.