The Grand Finale

For some, fall heralds the end of the garden year, the final curtain call in the growing season. I prefer to think of it as a second spring when cooling temperatures and more frequent rains bring a resurgence of life and bloom to the garden.

If the four seasons were acts in a play, autumn – Mother Nature’s splendid third act – would be described as the scene where drama and mystery build into a frenzied crescendo of color. Just consider how the set changes before our very eyes as summer’s deep greens explode into fiery reds, oranges and golds. It is almost as if the plants realize that the play will soon be over, and they want to go out in a blaze of glory.

I love to match fall’s exuberance as I design gardens to complement autumn’s "carnival of colors." If you would like to add a little drama and pizzazz to the scenes around your home, I have several suggestions that will help.

Build On What You Have

Fall WindowboxTake a look around your garden to see what you already have that you can build around. It could be something as grand a tree with good fall color or as simple as a clump of ornamental grasses. This is the quickest and most cost effective way to get started.

Choose a Focal Point

A strong focal point serves as a visual hook, a place to rest the eyes before taking in the surrounding elements. In fall, the natural choice for a focal point is an especially colorful tree or shrub.

Create the Perfect Scene

As you consider where to place your autumn scene, look out the windows and doorways of the rooms in your house that you use most often. This will help you concentrate on the important lines of sight from your home and create a balanced and interesting composition from both inside and outside your home.

Borrow a View

Fall Flower GardenIf you don’t have a colorful tree or shrub in your garden and don’t have room to plant one, consider what you might be able to "borrow" from your neighbors. Look for a striking tree or shrub within your vista to build on.

Keep It in Perspective

Use plants best suited for your situation to keep the composition balanced and comparative in size. A large tree, such as a sugar maple, is best suited for a large lot, while a dwarf tree, shrub or colorful plant may be perfectly proportioned for a terrace or patio.

Companion Plants to Build the Scene

Use plants smaller in size or visual weight to build around your focal point. These plants can either blend quietly into the background as a complement to the focal point, or add a striking contrast.

Add an Element of Surprise

Tuck in small collections of eye-catching plants that visitors can find as they explore the garden. Pockets of annuals, fall-blooming bulbs and "drop in" containers of plants add a surprise element.