Maybe it’s because I was born in December, but I love fall and winter, and you can find proof in my garden.
I have noticed hints of fall and winter creeping into my designs no matter what time of year I work on them. It’s become a part of my style. Fall is indeed an excellent time to plant but, unlike spring, it takes a little more searching to find plants that look good in the garden after mid-October.
For a perennial that blooms consistently late I have two favorites: Chrysanthemum x Mei-Kyo and Amsonia hubrectii, Blue Star Flower.
Mei-Kyo is the only chrysanthemum I can successfully grow, and I’ve tried dozens of highly recommended varieties. One culprit for my bad luck with chrysanthemums may be moisture. November can turn out to be warm and wet or cold and wet. In my experience chrysanthemums do not perform well in wet soils once they are dormant. Mei-Kyo blooms and grows late into November, thus increasing its hardiness in my Kentucky garden.
Amsonia is a new perennial in my garden. It is becoming quite popular in many gardening circles, not because of its simple and sparse blue flowers, but because of its spectacular golden, glowing fall color. Once established it is very drought-tolerant and versatile, performing well in a sunny or partially shady garden. It looks incredible planted as a large grouping of five or more.
Dozens of trees and shrubs have excellent qualities for fall and winter, but the first two that come to mind are showy because of their fruit: Ilex verticillata, Bonfire, a deciduous holly, and Callicarpa japonica, Beautyberry.
The fruit of deciduous hollies ranges in color from orange to brilliant red and varies in size and quantity, depending on the variety. The fruit remains throughout the winter or until birds eat it, which usually happens in late December. As with all hollies you need a male to pollinate your females or you won’t have any fruit show.
One of the hottest colors in gardening right now is purple, and while I can think of lots of purple flowers, I can think of just a few plants that have purple fruit. Beautyberries bloom in June and the flowers are small, white, and not very showy, but the purple fruit more than makes up for it. Once the leaves fall and the fruits are exposed, Beautyberry becomes an impressive sight. It looks particularly stunning if planted in front of a dark-green hedge or dark-red brick house. The fruit will remain until mid-December, depending on the temperature.
Now is a good time to plant to have color next winter.