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Plants for Fall & Winter Interest

Autumn is such a magical time in the garden.  With summer behind us the light is softening to golden hues and the shadows are getting long and a lot of plants are preparing for winter.  At the same time some plants have been waiting all spring and summer to delight us with their showiest season - Autumn.

Some plants will dazzle us with fall colours of rich burgundy, red, gold and orange and others will more delicately change to apricot, soft yellows and dusty rose.  All in my mind are beautiful but finding stunning combinations is as important as the plants themselves.  For example; I love the way the deep, dark, plum leaves of Cotinus (Smoke Bush) illuminate in the fall to salmon-pink tones.  However when Smoke Bush are combined with Pampas Grass (and maybe a little bit of a wrought iron fence or railing in behind) you have a gorgeous vignette to look upon, not only in the summer but also in the fall.  This is a little combo I've been looking for a place around my house for a while. 

Here are just a few of the plants that I think are interesting for using for fall and winter interest.  Some have interesting leaves or fall colour, some have beautiful stems and some have gorgeous berries.

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' (Twig Dogwood)

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'
 A delightful variation on the already lovely Red Twig Dogwood.   Cornus 'Midwinter Fire's green summer leaves turn yellow before disrobing to show off glowing coral stems.  These stems are beautiful when planted in front of evergreen shrubs so they can really contrast and stand out.  This plant is also wonderful in a fall container combined with Heucheras, heathers, pansies, cabbage or kale and then after the winter can be transplanted into the garden for seasons to come.

Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion' (Beauty Berry)

Callicarpa is probably the berried shrub that gets the most fuss when it is discovered by our customers. The berries are really purple!  Small polished purple berries in large clusters adorn the bare branches of Callicarpa from early fall throughout the winter. If you want it to be showy in the garden, plant it in front of evergreens.  Another way to use this plant is to plant it in the "outback" of your yard (back of the border) and cut it for using in displays indoors or out. 

Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii 'Amethyst' (Pink Snowberry)

Like the twig dogwood I talked about earlier; Pink Snowberry is a hybrid of our very own native white Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus.  Big, round, pink berries are displayed at the ends of branches like balls on a Christmas tree in fall and winter, well smaller, but you get the idea, eh?  This is a great plant, not only because its ancestors are native to here, but also because it doesn't mind our winter wet and it will handle all the dry summers that we seem to be getting more and more of. 

Buxus 'Green Velvet'(Evergreen Boxwood)
Boxwood might seem a funny choice for me to write about today but here we go.  One of the strongest trends in ornamental gardening is the very classic and formal look of evergreens in containers and boxwood is one of the very best choices.  You wouldn't want to put boxwood into a boring pot though.  The real idea here is that the understated boxwood shows of the architectural design or style of a beautiful pot.  If this feels like your style, now might be the time to change up your summer containers and fill them with the classic look of boxwood.  If you can't commit to boxwood in the summer, plant your boxwood into larger plastic containers that fit inside your fancy pots so you can remove them next May.

All of these plants would work for a fall container alone or in a combination planting but they are wonderful planted right into the garden too.  There are also so many other plants that are wonderfully showy for fall.  We haven't even touched on fall coloured leaves...but I guess that will have to wait for another day.