Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color…

September 8th, 2010 Comments Off on Glorious, Late Summer Garden Design: Combinations Featuring Light-Catching Texture and Bold, Contrasting Color…

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Matrona’, stunning in combination here at Ferncliff with bluish hues, such as the Juniperus chinensis, sargentii glauca (shown above) and later, with the tawny tufts of Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ (also pictured above, prior to inflorescence)

It’s early September, and the garden has only just begun to glow with a warm, bronzy radiance. Late summer’s golden, honey-tones and rich, violet hues sing in combination with dusty blue conifers and turquoise-tinted foliage. Some of my late-season favorites, particularly the delightful toad lily, ‘Dark-beauty’ Tricyrtis formosana, (read about my obsessive-love here), and velvety-violet monkshood (Aconitum charmichaelii ‘Arendsii‘), are never more beautiful than when combined with orange and yellow wisps and needles. And the richly colored hues of early autumn sedum —especially exquisite plum and magenta saturated cultivars like ‘Matrona’ and ‘Purple Emperor’— are stunning when settled into a garden filled with shocking blue fescue or a back-drop of icy-colored conifers. Oh, such delicious, painterly possibilities! The summer-to-autumn transition is a colorists delight…

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ photographed here at Ferncliff, with Ucinia egmontiana ‘Orange Hook Sedge’

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus or charmichaelii ‘Arendsii’)  is stunning backed by gold. Consider planting it in front of spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Monkshood is available widely through nurseries and online from retailers including Stork Road Farm (image above) – Gorgeous in combination with shrubs and perennials that turn red, orange, rust, yellow and goldin autumn, including: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Amsonia hubrichitii (Bluestar – see below), and Switchgrass ‘Heavy Metal’

Amsonia hubrichitii – Thread-leaf Arkansas Bluestar – turns brilliant gold in late -summer and holds its delightful color throughout autumn

Looking for some inspirational ideas? There will be plenty to look forward to here in the coming weeks. In meantime, try looking back at some of last year’s posts, beginning with this one on ornamental grasses (click here). I am passionate about late-season garden design, and my own beds and borders were specifically planned to peak in this season. Creating an end-of-summer to late-fall garden crescendo isn’t difficult, but it does require some research. Knowing what to expect from woody plants and perennials —and how to play changing hues to their best advantage— is something a gardener learns with thoughtful observation, experience and exposure to well-designed late-summer and autumn gardens.

At Ferncliff, Amsonia hubrichitii is planted in combination with Geranium ‘Brookside’ (above). The cobalt-violet blossoms and flame colored foliage are a stunning combination in the entry garden throughout fall.

Pay close attention to how the light filters through your garden. Position luminous plants, such thread-leaf Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichiti) flame grass (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens) and blue switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) to play with the sun’s rays, and the shadows of nearby trees and dark buildings. Make note of how your perennial foliage changes color in late summer and fall. Plan planting combinations with autumn-blooming perennials —especially in contrasting colors— to make the most of the late season transition. Will the green or blue foliage of a large plant shift gold? Position it behind a violet or blue-colored fall flower, such as an elegant monkshood or wild-looking aster. Does the cool weather bring out the arctic-blue of a favorite conifer? Next year, remember to plant orange-colored dahlias nearby or, for a softer-look, think about adding rosy-hued windflowers, such as Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ – also beautiful with gold leaved hostas) to your borders….

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’ (Japanese windflower / anemone)

Panicum virgatum, ‘Heavy Metal’ switch Grass – available in the UK (and above catalogue image via) the RHS online shop. This ornamental grass is widely available in nurseries and garden centers throughout the US.

The same plant as pictured above, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ swichgrass, here at Ferncliff in November

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