The Colors of Fall

The Colors of Fall

I have just returned from a lovely vacation in Paniculata Paradise, a.k.a. Vermont, where Hydrangea paniculata plants are EVERYWHERE! Every variety, every size, every form. Why are they everywhere? Because they are totally hardy up there and they bloom without fail. 


The new flowers of panicle hydrangeas are white, older flowers fade to amazing colors of pink and ruby red.

So I get back to Natureworks, and what do I see but a stunning specimen in our own gardens, nestled next to another lovely white fall tree, Heptacodium or Seven Sons tree. What a magnificent view of our border to the left of the driveway. Notice anything missing? Yes, the late, great ash tree that succumbed to emerald ash borer was finally taken down. We planted an oak (a tip of the hat to Doug Tallamy for leading us to this decision) and it was unscathed when the wonderful state crew did the ash tree removal. 

We carry our favorite varieties at Natureworks, including ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ which looks incredible in my own garden encased with a healthy stand of Aster umbellatus. This long-blooming, easy care native aster was ALL OVER Vermont. It competes well with goldenrods and Joe Pye weeds. In my own border, I pinched both the aster and the Solidago to layer it. It worked!

In my border at home, I am totally loving the look of this native Aster umbellatus with my Hyrangea ‘Vanilla Strawberry’. What a great, easy care fall combination.

WHITE: Who thinks of white in the fall? Well, it turns out  that besides the panicle hydrangeas, there are many lovely white

Sweet Calamintha is so long blooming and the bees adore it.

perennials that mingle so well with others. Calamintha is a flowering herb that is beloved by pollinators. It blooms continuously from summer thru fall as long as you give it a shearing every once in a while. Of course, it is not eaten by deer and is very drought tolerant. It has a bit of a minty fragrance. 


Blue is another color not often associated with autumn. But I find it to be the perfect color to marry with oranges, burgundy reds, and pinks. My absolute, hands-down, favorite blue flower on our benches right now is Phlox ‘Flame Blue’. I have been growing this variety at home for many years and have found it to be a bit later than the others and extremely easy to care for. In fact, I love it so much, I was going to divide it this year and double my plants. But here it is, on our benches. It hasn’t been here in a while. Makes me happy…

Phlox paniculata ‘Flame Blue’ is a subtle beauty. 

Another way to get blue into your gardens and containers is to add some winter

Plant pansies in the fall. Enjoy them now and early next spring!

pansies. We just got some in, and, if you plant them in the ground before Thanksgiving, you will see they will come back bigger and more beautiful as soon as the weather starts to break, usually in late March. 

PINK: Pink is the color of fall Sedums. It is also the color of our native, shade tolerant Chelone lyonii, upland turtlehead. When I go to Stowe, Vermont each summer, I always visit the gardens at the Trapp Family Lodge. There I saw the most magnificent stand of pink turtlehead I have ever seen! We have had ours in our shade garden by the road for over 25 years. This is a really good flowering plant for September. 
A giant stand of pink turtlehead in Stowe, VT. It was buzzing with bees. Wow!

Another pink bloomer that I really love is Hydrangea arborescens ‘Mini Mauvette’. Of all of the new, dwarf varieties of our native smooth hydrangea, this one wins the prize in my book. The color is rich and it reblooms on new wood. I planted one very late last fall and it has given me so much joy in my renovated courtyard bed this year. 

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Mini Mauvette’ is STILL blooming

PURPLE: Purple is a great color to add to the autumn palette in your garden. I have

three varieties of Vernonia (ironweed) in my home gardens and we have all three on the benches. The clusters of purple, fuzzy blossoms are a magnet for bees and butterflies in September. I pinch many of mine to extend the blossoming season for as long as possible. How about purple peppers? We have such very cool ornamental peppers on our annual benches right now. They are so fun to grow in containers or pop into blank spots in the front of your garden. 

RED: Red, now we’re talking a traditional fall color. Red foliage is starting to appear on my Itea and my blueberries. But the best red of all are the red raspberries that I am eating every day from my garden. I came into work this morning and munched on ‘Himbo Top’ raspberries on our benches. They were so sweet! This variety has a crop in July and then another crop in September. Red is also the color of another old favorite of mine that I was surprised to find on our benches- Persicaria ‘Blackfield’. This blooms for over two months in my garden and makes the best cut flower. It is a much deeper red than ‘Firetail’ and pairs so well with my blue perennial ageratum and Aster laevis ‘Bluebird’. 
Persicaria ‘Blackfield’ and Aster laevis ‘Bluebird’- what a combination!

BLACK: Black? Truly? Yes! Black is the color of the blackberry lily (Belamcanda) seed 

pods that dry for arrangements. I leave my Echinacea seed pods on to feed the birds- they are ripe when they turn black. But my head was turned by the jet black berries on Ilex crenata ‘Hetzi’ in our nursery year. They are quite showy and made me think of harvesting them to use in pumpkin arrangements. This is a basic shrub used for landscaping. The leaves look like a boxwood but it doesn’t smell like a boxwood, doesn’t suffer from boxwood leaf miner, and is much faster growing, therefore less expensive. 

The NUMBER ONE pollinator flower for fall is…
YELLOW: Yellow is true fall color. Yellow leaves, yellow mums… but the very best yellow flower you can incorporate into your fall landscape is Solidago or goldenrod. Now I don’t want to hear anybody say it causes hayfever because it most certainly doesn’t. It is pollinated by bees and that is why you must add some, somewhere, to your yard. We have so many different species and varieties. They are deer resistant, drought tolerant, super easy to grow natives. Get on the bandwagon, folks. Solidago is SO important to your Happy Habitat. 

ORANGE: I saved the traditional fall color for last. Orange is the color of pumpkins

Leonotis or Lion’s Mane

and pumpkinscaping time is just about here. But orange is also the color of one of the coolest fall flowers ever- Leonotis leonurus or Lion’s mane. This is a fuzzy orange spike that you just have to see to believe. It can be used as a fresh cut flower or hung to dry. It is a tender perennial but totally worth adding to your gardens or containers now. You will so enjoy it and everyone will ask you about it. 


Monarch butterflies are orange, and they love orange Echinacea blossoms. Yes, that is a tiny tag on that monarch. We are releasing and tagging them every day. 

But not all color at this time of year comes from flowers. Leaves add so much color too. I am madly in love with a new shrub called Spirea ‘Candy Corn’. This has very colorful foliage, yellow and orange, just like the candy we all eat for Halloween. The orange is new growth, and appears constantly. Spireas are real workhorses in the garden. They are deer proof, take partial shade, and this is a summer blooming variety which means it blooms twice (if you give it a quick cutback in mid-July). Guess what? This variety only grows 18-24″ tall so it would make any perennial border easy to take care of. 

Spirea ‘Candy Corn’


Oops, I forgot green! Green is the color that your organic lawn will be if you 

Yes, this is Diane’s organic lawn. You CAN have a beautiful lawn and not use any poisons or chemical fertilizers. Let us teach you how. 

take care of it now. Fall is the ideal time to add compost and organic fertilizer and overseed any bare spots with our custom grass seed mix. We are fully stocked with everything you need including shredded straw and organic grub control products (yes, they are underground at this point, munching on grass roots. Not sure where to start? Click Here and link to our Organic Lawn Care information on our website. 

Green is also the color of some of

the coolest succulent houseplants you will ever meet that are now hanging out in our greenhouse. One of them is Rhipsalis baccifera, the very first succulent I ever owned (I snagged a piece from the UConn greenhouses when I was in ag school back in the 70’s). Don’t forget to check out all the neat houseplants and succulents as well as pretty pots and containers. It’s time to start thinking about your indoor garden as well!

So color your world with perennials, annuals, flowering shrubs, ornamental grasses, and pretty foliage plants from Natureworks. The fresh plants keep on arriving and we have 4 crews going out every morning tuning up gardens and adding lots of color for the fall season ahead. There is so much going on this week here at Natureworks. On Saturday morning I am giving a FREE workshop on How Bulbs can Help the Pollinators. This is the first in a series of workshops where I will talk about how to

design with bulbs, thus doubling the color in your garden and extending the bloom time from February onward. In fact, some of the most important bulbs I will be discussing are the earliest. On Sunday, we will have a FREE workshop: Native Plants for Migrating Monarchs. They are actively migrating all during September and they need lots and lots of nectar to make it across the country and to Mexico. After that, there will be another Monarch Tag and Release workshop but it is full at this point. Please go to our website to register for the Native Plants for Migrating Monarchs workshop. Even though it is free, we appreciate knowing how many people will be attending so we can set up the tent in advance. Click Here.

This email will be arriving in your inbox on September 11th. I will be taking a moment on Wednesday to sit peacefully in my garden and think about how the world was suddenly changed on that morning and to pray for peace. We are so in need of peaceful prayers and thoughts. And the garden is the perfect sanctuary to make that


I hope your garden is a source of great peace and happiness. Come in and sit in our gardens for a spell and soak up the beauty that our magic little acre brings to the world. See you soon…

P.S. If you liked the COLOR focus of this email, you will love this week’s Facebook Live. Tune in this Thursday at 4 pm and we will continue this conversation…