Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
October, 2008
Regional Report

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Hostas for fall color? You bet!

Take Another Look at Fall Color

This is the time when we get the almost excruciatingly beautiful fall color that the Midwest is famous for. It's also the perfect time to take a drive and make some notes about unusual plants to include in your landscape for fall color next year.

Of course, there are the traditional fall favorites like sugar maple and serviceberry, but what about some of the less common plants that we don' tend to think of in terms of autumn color?

I was walking in my own garden the other day and absolutely struck by the beauty of the hostas. Who knew they could be so beautiful? I tend to think of their fall attributes as being only the slimy mess to be cleaned up after frost.

Schwedler Maple
Another plant we don't tend to think of as having fall color is the Schwedler maple. This is a sturdy cultivar of Norway maple that has the bronze leaves through the summer (not maroon like Crimson King). Standard Norways turn bright yellow but the Schwedler turns into reds and oranges almost rivaling a sugar maple.

Have you looked at your crabapples lately? They are known for their attractive spring flowers and summer fruits, but many of the crabs are magnificent in the fall. They turn to all shades of reds, oranges and maroons. Place that with the attractive checkered bark and you have a beautiful fall focus.

Ornamental Grasses
Miscanthus or maiden grasses are in their prime right now. We certainly value them for their fluffy seedheads and tawny winter color, but before they turn for winter, they go through a maroon and pink stage. They are wonderfully useful in the perennial border, especially when set against the aster and fall Japanese anemones that are in bloom right now.

It may sound like a stretch, but the other day I was walking through an arboretum with a collection of pines and was struck how attractive they were. The young white pines are all shedding their inner needles as they do each fall, and the orange needles on the insides of the branches were a striking contrast to the blue-green needles on the ends of the branches. Now who ever thinks of evergreens as having fall color?

Broadleaf Evergreens
Last year I planted blueberries and rhododendrons simply to have the brilliant red fall color. Oh, I like the flowers and the berries also, but the fall color is amazing.

So, stretch your imagination a bit and see what you can come up with this fall.

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