Tackling tough areas for fall, winter color
When fall arrives, shady areas are not likely to be stars in the garden. With careful planning, however, they can contribute both fall color and continuing winter interest.
In April and May, deciduous trees are not fully leafed out, so areas below their canopies can be planted with spring-blooming bulbs and ephemerals. However, by September and October, color will need to come from shade-loving specimens.
Consider anchoring a shady border or corner with plants such as ‘Little Honey’ oakleaf hydrangea, ‘Blue Shadow’ fothergilla, and ‘Great Expectations’ hosta. Each of these plants provides moderate height with a good spread. Fill in with a variety of heucheras (for example, ‘Lime Rickey’ and ‘Peach Flambe’) and heucherellas along with yellow carex (‘Lemon Zest’ or ‘Banana Boat’) and Northern seat oats, ‘Brilliance’ autumn fern, and black snakeroot. Include some Lenten roses. These will provide beautiful blooms very early, but their foliage will persist all year long, lovely in form and a nice, deep green.
Foundation plantings, even with good light, are another area that often doesn’t contribute much to fall color. Garden designers, though, are encouraging us to think beyond the typical row of evergreen shrubs. Before you think about plant selection, be sure to plan for an access path between house and border. This will minimize crowding and keep plants out of the dry zone under the roof overhang.
In selecting plants, choose compact cultivars to minimize the need for pruning and low, spreading perennials to act as a living mulch. Examples of good anchor plants include ‘Bailey Compact’ viburnum, ‘Sixteen Candles’ clethra, and ‘Merlot’ or ‘Little Henry’ Virginia sweetspire.
Good perennials for filling in the foundation border might include ‘Blue Ice’ amsonia, ‘Voodoo’ sedum, and ‘Aztec Gold’ veronica.
Many other shrubs and perennials could contribute fall color in these tough areas. With long winter days and evenings just ahead, consider reserving some time for browsing, researching, and designing a revitalized garden area to shine in fall 2014.