‘Burgundy Bunny’ fountain grass

This time of year, it’s easy to get jealous of New England. Autumn in that part of the country looks–at least according to the pages of magazines like Country–like a kaleidoscope of color. And to be honest, compared to the soggy browns many of us are used to seeing around our neighborhoods in fall, it is. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning you can have a garden full of autumn color as well.

As I’ve already written about, there are many great options for adding color to your yard this time of year. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few more of my favorites–and ones that are easy to grow, too!

First, barberry is a great plant that provides beautiful color in autumn. Depending on the variety you choose, you’ll see fall colors range from hot pink to bright orange to rich crimson. One of my favorites is ‘Helmond Pillar.’ With a maximum height of five to six feet, it’s great for the back of a flowerbed–but its narrow profile of just two feet wide will fit even the smallest space. In autumn, the deep burgundy leaves of ‘Helmond Pillar’ mellow out to beautiful shades of glowing red. At Vander Giessen’s, we have this and many other varieties of barberry available–all with great fall color.

Speaking of red, another gorgeous shrub this time of year is the classic burning bush. My favorite is euonymous alata ‘Compacta’–the dwarf burning bush. Throughout spring and summer, it holds slightly serrated deep green leaves on thick, woody stems. In September, the leaves start to fade out to pale green, but with the first cool nights, they flame up with bright crimson tones. Easily pruned to any shape or size, dwarf burning bush is drought-resistant and has no issues with insects or disease, so even when it’s not “on fire” it’s an attractive plant to grow.

If smaller perennials are more your taste in gardening, fall is an exciting time as well. Ornamental grasses like feather reed grass fade to golden brown; purple fountain grass shows off its fluffy seed heads and as I’ve written, ‘Burgundy Bunny’ grass reaches its peak as well. For a more robust-looking perennial, try a sedum like ‘Autumn Joy.’ This very drought-tolerant succulent has pink flowers just coming into bloom, and long after it has faded in a couple of months, it can provide winter interest as well.

Blueberry bush fall color

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite plants for four-season interest: blueberries. Sure, we all think of growing blueberries as a fruit crop. But have you considered planting them simply for their ornamental value? In spring, blueberries are loaded with beautiful bell-shaped flowers. In summer, you’re treated to tasty, sweet fruit. And in fall, the shrub turns shades of brilliant red-orange. Follow that with stems that turn a bright red in winter and the common blueberry bush becomes a great standout in any garden. Moreover, if you choose to plant blueberries in your yard, the addition of the new ‘Pink Lemonade’ variety can add even more interest. With its golden-orange leaves in fall and yellow winter stems, it makes a great compliment to traditional blueberry varieties!

At Vander Giessen Nursery, you’ll find all of the aforementioned varieties of shrubs and perennials–and right now, they’re all on sale! In our neck of the woods, fall can be a gloomy time of year, but with a little planning, you can grow a garden sure to brighten even the darkest autumn day.