Landscape Design: Early Fall Meadow 2

As a full-sun gardener in a hot, humid climate, I spend high summer sweating – literally and figuratively. Is the garden going to make it through the season relatively unscathed? Will I?

But as soon as September arrives, I’m rewarded with one of the best gifts of the year: autumn light. It doesn’t matter that parts of the garden look ratty or that many plants are well past their prime. Everything just looks better bathed in that soft, golden glow.

Here’s a shot of our rear perennial bed in early September, snapped while I drank my morning coffee:

Rear perennial bed

Even though it’s late in the season, the roses are enjoying another full bloom while the grasses put on their annual fall light show.

Here’s a slightly different view, taken a few weeks later with a sip of wine in the early evening hours:

Rear perennial bed 2

You can just make out the little socially-distanced seating area we created so our guests could sit in the middle of the garden with us and try to forget all about the pandemic. I’m not looking forward to the dark winter days when it’s too cold to enjoy those chairs!

Even small plant combinations can shine at this time of year. This perennial mix – hardy geraniums, dark-leaved heuchera and various sedges – looks good year-round. But I particularly like it when the nearby hydrangea blossoms turn from milky white to soft shades of cream and rose as the weather cools. As their color deepens, a Sheffield Pink chrysanthemum starts to bloom, adding a warm pastel note to the garden. The dangling seed heads of the river oats create their own magic when backlit by the setting sun.

Purple love grass


Out in the west-facing meadow, autumn light keeps the intense colors going even as plants begin their senescence. Here are two great native plants, gallardia and purple love grass. Despite their diminutive size (neither grows higher than 18” or so), they pack a vibrant punch in the golden light of early fall.


And how could I not close with a photo of our native amsonia? Grown primarily for its delicate foliage that provides texture throughout the growing season, it steals the show in fall as it turns slowly from green to orange to an intense yellow that you can hold in your mind until the daffodils appear next spring.

Landscape Design: Fall Garden


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