Tag: autumn

Cool Season Herbs

Herbs are among my favorite plants in the garden. More than just a “pretty face” not only are herbs fragrant and colorful, but they are also useful in so many ways, from culinary seasonings in the kitchen to aromatic decorations throughout the house. As signs of spring begin to emerge in the garden, I look forward to welcoming the return of my perennial herbs and to planting my favorite annual varieties.

While herbs such as basil or dill require warm temperatures to thrive there are a few varieties that can withstand a late frost so I don’t have to wait much longer to plant them.

Nasturtiums: These happy open-faced flowers with big round leaves thrive in cool spring temperatures. Both foliage and blooms have a peppery taste that I enjoy adding to salads and sandwiches. They come in an array of bright colors including these ‘Alaska Mix’ nasturtiums with variegated foliage.

Parsley: I use curly parsley as a garnish and flat leaf parsley in recipes when I want a stronger flavor. Both varieties grow well in loamy garden soil that is rich in nitrogen and in areas that get full sun to part shade. Parsley can even take some snow and cold temperatures if lightly mulched.

Johnny Jump Up: These delightful little flowers are some of the first blooms in my spring garden. Back in the 19th century the juice of the plant was often used as the main ingredient of love potions. While I can’t profess their effectiveness in that way, my other herbs seem to be quite happy to grow next to them.

Bronze Fennel: This tall, graceful plant with beautiful bronze-brown feathery foliage has an intense licorice fragrance and flavor. I enjoy it as an ornamental filler in flower arrangements and for its soft texture in the garden.

Cilantro: The foliage of cilantro is an herb commonly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. The seeds of this plant are called coriander, which is another herb used in cooking. The plant grows best in cool, sunny spring weather. Once soil temperatures get hot, it will bolt and go to seed.

Arugula: Arugula is an herb often mistaken to be lettuce. Its leaves have a peppery mustard flavor with a tangy bite that really spice up salads, soups, vegetables, and meat. Arugula thrives in the spring along with other leafy greens.

Chives and Garlic Chives: Both chives and garlic chives are easy-to-grow perennials that are relatives of onions, garlic, and shallots. They have grass-like foliage that grows about 12-18 inches high. Later in the season the plants display showy flower heads. Whenever I want to use the herbs to enhance the flavor of a meal, I just trim a few leaves with scissors. The plant rebounds quickly so I can harvest more.

German Chamomile: This fast growing annual will reseed itself, so it can become a bit of a nuisance if you don’t want it to spread. However, in the right setting, the way it pops up unexpectedly can be fun. The plant produces cheery little flowers with an apple-like fragrance. You are probably most are familiar with its contribution as a nighttime tea.

Thyme: The pungent scent of thyme comes from the oil in the small oval leaves of this popular herb. It thrives in full sun and dry conditions. There are many wonderful varieties including lemon thyme and others with variegated leaves with either gold or silver highlights.

What to Plant Now for Fall Color

Can it really be summer already? It seems just yesterday I was gazing out of the window at my ice-encrusted garden, wondering if I would ever see my plants stand tall and wear green again.

During those dimly lit winter days it felt as though time was moving as slow as cold molasses. With the arrival of spring the clock seemed to speed up, and now, on the summer solstice, time is racing by like a runaway horse with me in hot pursuit yelling, “Wait! Not so fast!”

The summer solstice is my cue to make sure my garden is ready for the next season with plants that are autumn showstoppers. Here are 10 of my favorites.

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

Zones 8-11; 36-48 inches tall, 24-36 inches wide; flowers late summer into fall; pineapple-scented leaves are edible.

‘Prince’ Fountain Grass (Pennisetum)

Zones 8-11; 60-72 inches tall, 24-36 inches wide; excellent for fall arrangements.

Luscious®; Citrus Blend™; Lantana

Annual except in zones 9-11; 24-36 inches tall, 20-30 inches wide; blooms spring through fall; attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

The Knock Out®; Family of Roses

Zones 5-11; 3-4 feet tall, 3-4 feet wide; blooms spring through fall; Sunny Knock Out®; produces hips too.

Blueberries (Vaccinium sp.)

Zone hardiness and size depend on type and variety; blooms in spring with berries following; outstanding fall color on a low-maintenance shrub.

Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida)

Zones 4-8; 24-36 inches tall; 18-24 inches wide; blooms late summer into fall; will grow in partial shade.

ColorBlaze®; Dipt in Wine Coleus

Annual except in zones 10-11; 20-36 inches tall; 12-14 inches wide; great color combination for autumn.

Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)

Zones 4-9; 4-12 inches tall, 4 inches wide; blooms in fall; leaves appear after flowers fade.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana)

Zones 6-10; 4-6 feet tall, 4-6 feet wide; blooms in summer; yellow fall foliage paired with bright purple berries.

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.

Fall Focal Point

Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the deep blue color of the sky; the smell of burning leaves on a cold afternoon; the slow, soaking rains; and of course the brilliant hues of fall foliage. Right now my garden is at peak color. Everything from trees and shrubs to perennials and annuals is making the transition from summer’s deep greens to fiery reds, oranges and golds.

A principle of design I like to use to create memorable gardens is to establish a focal point within each setting. I find that when I first walk into a garden, I usually look around until I see something that draws my attention. 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. This may be a plant that has quietly blended into the background all summer, but as the season changes, it dons a colorful new costume, and is ready to step into the spotlight.

Japanese Maple
Some of my favorite trees and shrubs that make beautiful points of interest in a fall garden are listed below.

  • Sugar Maple
  • Itea
  • Fothergilla monticola
  • Spirea
  • Blueberry
  • Blackgum
  • Ginkgo
  • Dwarf Nandina
  • Euonymus
  • Maple ‘Red Sunset’
  • Japanese Maple

Before the memory of your fall garden fades, consider planting one of these colorful autumn accents either now or in the spring.

Decorate with a Black & White Autumn Door Hanging

You just never know when inspiration is going to hit you. I came up with this door hanging arrangement while standing in a field of black corn in Carmel, California. I was struck by the dramatic dark maroon tassels on the corn contrasted with white miniature pumpkins growing near by.

Not everyone has access to a field of black corn and white miniature pumpkins, but these same materials might be as close as a local farmer’s market or garden center. If not, you can also adapt this project to materials that are more readily available in your area. Substitute wheat, ornamental grass, bittersweet or evergreen boughs for the corn tassels and bundled citrus, berried branches, purple hyacinth bean pods or berried branches would be lovely in place of the corn and pumpkins.

Corn tassels are somewhat bulky so just remember to adjust the amount of material you use for the base if you select something ethereal like ornamental grass.

1 wire coat hanger, the kind with a connecting cardboard tube
6 corn stalks with tassels and ears
sharp knife
florist wire
wire cutters
small white pumpkins on the vine
ice pick

Create an Hourglass Shaped Base

Now, the way you get started is to take a wire coat hanger, remove the cardboard bar and bend the two arms down. To me it looks something like a tuning fork with a hook on the end. You will use this later to hang the arrangement on a door.

Next make your form or base. If you are working with corn, remove the tassels from the ears. Leave a little bit of stalk on the ears. This will make it easier to attach the ear to the arrangement.

Thread Wire through the Corn
Take the tassels and create 2 bundles of equal amounts. Place the bundles on the table so the stalks overlap and the tassels hang at each end. It should look somewhat like a bowtie or skinny hourglass. If you find the base is too long or short, adjust the overlap. Wire the bundles together at the center.

Next, attach the ears of corn to the corn tassel base with wire. Pierce the end of the stalk, run wire through it and tie the ear to the corn tassel base, keeping them in the lower two-thirds of the arrangement.

Attach the Wire Hanger
Once the ears of corn are in place attach the coat hanger to the back by simply hooking it through some of the wire used to bind the corn tassels.

For a finishing touch, add the small pumpkins. It’s great when you can get them on the vine. Just cluster the pumpkins together and attach them near the top of the base so that they hang down over the ears of corn.

Autumn Door Hanging
And there you have it – a festive autumn door hanging. You know, there’s so much diversity and beauty in nature – black corn and white pumpkins!

Create a Cute Cornucopia Door Accent

Cornucopia Door HangingThanksgiving marks the last big event in the fall season. Far and away, it’s my favorite holiday because it combines all my favorite things – getting together with family and friends to dine on wonderful food and a daylong celebration centered on the bounty from the land. To get in the holiday spirit, I like to fill my house with lots of beautiful materials from the garden. I begin at the front door with a cornucopia overflowing with colorful flowers, gourds, corn, and grasses, to signify the wealth of the harvest.


  • 2′ x 2′ 1″ mesh chicken wire
  • Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks
  • Sheet moss
  • Grape Vine
  • Hair spray
  • Plants, cut flowers, fruits and vegetables of the season
  • Floral Tape
  • Floral foam
  • Floral Sticks
  • 8″ Paper Mâche Container


  1. Cornucopia Door HangingStart by cutting a 2 foot x 2 foot piece of 1 inch mesh chicken wire. Then roll it diagonally from one corner to the other creating a cone. To hold it together bend the ends of the wire into the body and curve the closed end into the classic cornucopia shape. For the open end, just roll back the edges to form a lip. Be sure to make the opening large enough to hold an eight-inch container.
  2. Slip an 8 inch paper mâche container into the cornucopia. You can find these at most hobby stores. They are usually white. I like to use them because they are so light weight.
  3. Next cover the chicken wire form with sheet moss. Using a hot glue gun attach sections of sheet moss to the frame. You may find that smaller pieces of moss are easiest to handle.
  4. As a final touch, wrap the entire horn in grape vine. This gives it a nice accent and helps secure the moss.
  5. Then just use some hair spray to keep the moss from shattering.
  6. Now, you are ready to really get creative and fill this with all sorts of things that symbolize the harvest season, like dried fruits and vegetables as well as living things like kale, mums and ivy.
  7. Begin by placing floral foam in the container and push it toward the back to leave room in the front for other things. Then secure it with floral tape.
  8. Start at the back of the cornucopia with tall and spiky elements such as Russian sage or wheat or ornamental grass.
  9. Next add fullness with gourds, corn, and dried flowers.
  10. If you are planning to use live potted plants, remove them from their pots, moisten the roots, and slip them in a plastic bag. This will help them last longer and they’ll fit easier in the arrangement.
  11. Another trick I’ve learned is to spike gourds and small pumpkins with a floral stick. Then simply push the stick into the floral foam. This will keep round objects in place.
  12. And finally, to cascade down the front, slip in a few ivy plants.

Find more fall decor tips by watching the video below!

Create a Dried Flower Topiary for Fall

Topiary made with dried fall flowers.Creating a fall topiary is ideal for bringing a touch of autumn color indoors.

All the dried flowers that I used in this design can be grown and harvested from your garden or purchased from a craft store. If you want to grow your own, sow the seeds or plant transplants in the spring and collect the blooms over the course of the summer.


  • 6″ terra cotta pot
  • 6″ plastic foam ball
  • 3 twigs about 21″ long
  • Duct tape
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Disposable container to mix plaster of Paris
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue sticks
  • floral u-pins
  • Jute twine
  • Dried flowers (Allen used cock’s comb, celosia ‘Pink Flamingo’, sunflowers, bittersweet, gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’, maples leaves and Mexican sage.)
  • Sheet moss
  • Scissors

Plaster of ParisFirst create the form. You will need a clay pot, a round foam ball, and a bundle of sticks to create the trunk. I used 3 strong stems about the diameter of a pencil and tied them together with some jute twine.

These topiaries can be top heavy, so it is important to add weight to the terra cotta pot to keep it from toppling over. This can be done with plaster of Paris. Not only does it weigh down the container, but it also allows you to anchor the trunk of your topiary.

Cover the drainage hole of the terra cotta pot with duct tape.

Mix your plaster of Paris according to the directions.

Foam BallNext take the bundle of twigs and place them in the center of the container and pour in the plaster of Paris up to about 1/2 inch from the top. Hold the twigs in place until the plaster sets, which takes about 2 or 3 minutes. Then allow the plaster to dry. Depending on the humidity, this may take 30 minutes.

Once the plaster hardens, trim off any excess trunk from the top so that it rises 16″ above the plaster of Paris base.

Next push a hole into the bottom of your foam ball by pressing it down about 4″ onto the end of the trunk. Pull it back off the trunk to begin adding dried flowers.

Now it’s time to have some fun and get creative. You can use all kinds of dried flowers and berries to decorate the foam ball. Select several sizes of flowers.  Use large blooms to create visual impact, as well as medium to small blooms as soft fillers. For this topiary I used an assortment of dried cock’s comb, celosia ‘Pink Flamingo’, sunflowers, bittersweet, gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’, maples leaves and Mexican sage. If these aren’t available in your area, improvise with flowers you can find.

Begin by attaching the larger flowers, such as sunflowers, to the foam ball with hot glue.

Fill in with bundles of the smaller flowers by pinning them with the floral u-pins.

Once the entire ball is covered, attach it to the trunk with a little hot glue. Then wrap a bit of the bittersweet or similar vine around the trunk, also attaching it with hot glue.

To complete the project hot glue pieces of sheet moss to the plaster base in the terra cotta pot. This will conceal the plaster and give the topiary a finished look.

Find more fall decor ideas by watching the video below!