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Fall Isn't Just for Pumpkins, Mums, and Cornstalks

Creating a garden with 4 season interest is easy when you include shrubs with fall and winter interest.

Creating a garden with 4 season interest is easy when you include shrubs with fall and winter interest.

Many wonderful flowering shrubs are often forgotten because they tend to bloom in the fall when many people aren’t thinking about gardening. Homeowners have been told that shrubs should be planted in the spring, but fall is actually a wonderful time of year to garden as well. The weather is cool and watering is not a daily chore. We often forget about shrubs because garden centers have closed down for the year and gardening is limited to pumpkins, mums and cornstalks. I can say this because I fall victim to the same décor. Let’s break out of that paradigm and look at some wonderful varieties that can make our gardens glow and look beautiful ‘til the first snowflake dances from the sky.


Beautiful dried flowers for arranging:  Let’s start with Hydrangea paniculata. This species of Hydrangea is wonderful for those living in colder climates. Many are hardy to zone 3. They are also perfect for the beginning gardeners because they bloom on new growth. So there is no indecisiveness about when the plant needs to be pruned. There are several different varieties that stand out in the group of Proven Winners Color Choice introductions. Those varieties include:

‘Limelight’ – beautiful chartreuse blooms that emerge in late summer. Provide a lovely spectrum of whites, pinks and mauves into late fall. Reaching a height of 6 to 8 feet, Limelight can always be pruned to whatever size is required and is wonderful for fresh or cut flowers.

Quick Fire® - blooms a month earlier than any other paniculata and has glorious red fall color. I have been told by many horticulturists that this flower is possibly the deepest pinkish-red of any paniculata variety.

Bobo® - This dwarf hydrangea will turn heads!  Bobo® is a delightful plant that is engulfed by large white flowers in summer.  The flowers are held upright on strong stems, and continue to grow and lengthen as they bloom.  In fall they can turn pinkish.  It is an undeniable asset to any garden, particularly those in which space is limited.  It won the Gold Florall medal for best novelty plant.

These varieties are near and dear to my heart.  I have 6 "Limelight' Hydrangeas as a hedge planted in my own yard. 

Beautiful fall leaf & stem color:  Fall color is often derived from spectacular foliage color. Not only do trees have beautiful fall colors of yellow, orange and red, but shrubs also display this kaleidoscope of colors. Spring through fall beauty is front and center in every garden but what your garden will look like in the winter is also important, especially if you have a back room with windows looking out into your garden.  Select plants that look good dormant – when all their leaves have fallen become essential to having an interesting winter garden. Evergreens are great to use, but to spice it up a little bit, make sure to add varieties like:

Arctic Fire Cornus – only reaching 3 to 4 feet when other Dogwoods reach 6 plus feet, this variety can be easily planted in mass in a smaller landscape with no problem. Imagine looking out that back window to a mass of bright red stems popping out of pure white snow. How beautiful! It will warm you up like a nice bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Arctic Sun Cornus – has exactly the same qualities as Arctic Fire®, but the stems are yellow with red tips, giving you the choice to have either red or yellow stems for your winter landscape.

Little Henry® Itea – is a dwarf Sweetspire that has incredible appeal from spring to fall. With beautiful white cascading blooms to leaves that turn fire red in the fall, who could pass up this beauty? It only reaches 24 to 36 inches tall and performs well in full sun to full shade. 


Colorful leaves all season:  The secret to having a garden that pops with pizzazz throughout the seasons is to look for plants that have different colored foliage. Shrubs today range in foliage colors from black to burgundy, golden to copper with a wealth of variegated types also available, this means it doesn’t have to be fall to have impressive foliage. Some of the recent introductions through Proven Winners Color Choice have been stellar performers when it comes to season long foliage color. Those varieties include:

Black Lace® Sambucus – introduced at retail in 2006. The leaves of this shrub are blackish purple and are cut-leaf like that of the Japanese maples planted in so many yards across America, but Black Lace will cost you a fraction of the price. Very hardy, to zone 4, and reaching 6 to 8 feet in height, Black Lace can be pruned back if desired.

My Monet® Weigela – is new for retail in the spring of 2007 and is sure to create a mad rush to the garden center. My Monet only reaches 12 to 18 inches in height. It has incredible green and white variegation with new growth highlighted in pink when planted in a partly sunny location. Blooms of beautiful pink, tubular flowers grace the plant in early summer and hummingbirds flock to get their share of the nectar.


Colorful fall berries:  Now we can’t forget about the plants that have beautiful berries in the fall like the native Winterberry (Ilex verticillata).  Berry Heavy® bear brilliant red berries starting in fall and persisting into winter.  The berries will entice birds to come and feed, such as the bluebirds that exploded in shards of bright blue from my bushes in mid-winter last year. 

Berry Heavy® - produces copious amounts of bright red berries to be enjoyed in fall and winter. Brighten up the winter landscape with a mass planting! The berries can also be cut for use in floral arrangements. Use 'Jim Dandy' as the male pollinator. To produce berries a male and female plant are both required. Fruit is not edible. Great for cutting.


The Viburnums in Color Choice were also chosen for their berry set.  

Cardinal Candy® - has improved hardiness compared to other varieties, so northern gardeners can finally enjoy the impressive fruit of this viburnum. Bright red, remarkable and abundant berries make for a stunning display in the fall. Fruiting appears to be strong even without another pollinator in the area. Tons of creamy white flowers cover the plant in spring (May in Michigan). The plant itself has a nice, well-branched habit, and fits nicely into the landscape. Berries are not edible by humans.

Blue Muffin® - is a gorgeous variety. More compact, it fits easily into the residential landscape. Easy to grow, with little or no maintenance required, BLUE MUFFIN® adapts to most locations with full sun to partial shade. Clean white flowers make for a crisp contrast with the glossy green leaves in early to mid-summer. The remarkably intense blue fruit that inspired the BLUE MUFFIN® name appear in late summer and fall. The fruit add interest to the fall landscape, and attract songbirds to the garden. Berries are not edible. Blue Muffin® also bears fluffy white flower in the spring, however, in late summer through winter it is vivid blue berries that will hold your attention and the attention of every songbird in the neighborhood.

Brandywine® - Experience the most beautiful berry display in the plant kingdom with this new native Viburnum. White spring flowers produce breathtaking pink and blue fall fruit; that transform from green to shades of vivid pink and blue. A great companion pollinator for 'Winterthur' although Brandywine® has good berry production even without another pollinator nearby. Showy glossy leaves change to incredible dark maroon-red in autumn. Deer resistant.

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