Add Some Fall Color to Your Yard

— Written By Anelle Ammons

grassPumpkins, gourds, decorative corn, and straw bales are all great ways to bring color and interest to your home in the fall, but have you considered some living color for your yard or containers? As those pumpkins start to fade, don’t let your yard go dull for the season; incorporate some colors into your landscape this fall, a perfect time for planting!

One of my favorite groups of often overlooked plants that provide great fall and winter interest is ornamental grasses. These grasses offer a fabulous texture in the spring and summer with their long, slender leaves, and they come in a variety of heights and widths to really fill in garden spaces with different shapes. However, in the fall, ornamental grasses really come alive. The flowers on grasses aren’t big and showy, in fact, they are quite small and inconspicuous, but they stick above the plants in wispy clouds of color. Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a native grass that typically has plumes of pink flowers, though some varieties now come with white flowers. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a tall, native grass that can grow anywhere between three and five feet, depending on variety, and offers hues of green and blue leaves during the summer. For a shorter grass, fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) makes a great addition to borders and containers, and it has a fuzzy grouping of flowers that burst out in late spring. All these grasses offer texture not just in the fall, but also in the winter, for a lasting impact in your yard.

If you need a little larger shape, some great shrubs that provide deep fall color include Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii), and oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). They all turn bright, deep reds and oranges as the weather cools, and when you pair that amazing fall color with their beautiful white flowers in the spring, you have a shrub that offers you multi-season interest. As an added bonus, all these shrubs are native to North Carolina, so they are well adapted to our crazy weather patterns, and they support wildlife and pollinators in our area.

If you’re looking for plants that offer beauty as well as function, don’t forget about your cool season edible vegetables. Kale, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and more offer a burst of color, as well as fresh vegetables right from your own space. Don’t be afraid to mix your vegetables into your flower beds to provide that pop of color throughout the yard. Many of them also do great in containers, so they can add an edible beauty right by your front door, walkway, balcony, or patio.

Fall is a great time to add some new plants to your landscape that can add a splash of color for this year, as well as the future. By thoughtfully choosing places for your plants, you can maximize the variety of color and texture in your outdoor space, as well as bring in some food. Want to know more? Join us September 6 at 2 p.m. or September 22 at 10 a.m. at the Agriculture Resource Center (1175 S. Brady Ave, Newton) for a talk on Gardening for 4 Season Interest to get more ideas on how to add color to your outdoor space.

Check out more upcoming gardening classes!