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Bringing Home Colors of Fall

Late-blooming flowers are exploding with orange, yellow, purple and other vivid shades.

Fall plants bring a vivid palette of vibrant colors.

Fall plants bring a vivid palette of vibrant colors.

— From shrubs and trees to flowers and bulbs, cool autumn temperatures offer ideal conditions for planting a fall garden, say experts. Whether one’s goal is to create a jewel-toned landscape, a hearty bed of greens or simply plant bulbs in preparation for a pastel-imbued yard next spring, area horticulture gurus say the options are plentiful.

“Fall is a great time to plant,” said Claire Seesman of the Potomac Garden Center in Potomac. “There are a lot of fall blooming perennials: Echinacea (also known as purple cone flowers), ornamental fall grasses, mums, pansies, cabbage and kale are huge right now.”

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Photo Courtesy of Merrifield Garden Center

Burning bush plants offer add an explosion of color to fall gardens.

Why is fall well suited for planting? “Mostly because the plants are going dormant and not actively growing, so they have a lot less transplant shock,” said David Watkins of Merrifield Garden Center. “You still have to watch the watering [because] plants are still using water, even in the winter months.”

Seesman says trees and shrubs are particularly popular in autumn. “As they go into dormancy they really don’t have much of a problem settling in, so it is a great time to get them established.”

For foliage that offers an explosion of color, Watkins recommends the burning bush. “It turns such a beautiful red color in the fall,” he said. “October Glory and Red Sunset maples all have fantastic fall color. Most of your hydrangeas also turn a beautiful color in the fall.” To add shades of purple, Watkins suggests plants like winterberries and beautyberries.

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Photo Courtesy of Merrifield Garden Center

Plants like beautyberries can add shades of purple to fall landscapes.

For those who think that blooming flowers are reserved only for spring gardens, Seesman says to think again. “Coral bells come in so many different colors … lime green all the way to a peach crisp color and a deep purple called ‘plum pudding.’ Those are amazing for adding fall color to the garden.” She also recommends other vividly hued varieties such as Shasta daises, coneflowers and gaillardia

If one’s preference is planning for next spring, Doris Williams, also of Merrifield Garden Center, says now is the time to plant bulbs. “Everybody loves tulips, daffodils and narcissus in the spring, and iris and hyacinths smell good.” However, “they need to be planted in the next month or two.” Williams adds that, if available, bulbs can be planted during winter as long is the ground is not frozen. “They need to get six to eight weeks of cold weather after planting to set their blooms,” she said.

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Photo Courtesy of Merrifield Garden Center

Options abound for vibrant fall flowers like Echinacea, also known as purple coneflowers.

Richly colored fall grasses often compliment other flowers and plants in a garden. “My favorites are pink muhle grass,” said Seesman. “It has a really nice purple-pink plume as it blooms. Another one is ‘little blue stem’ which has of a blue-green color and then it opens up into pink and fluorescents so you get a lot of different color on it.”