Inspiring Ideas and Photos Take the Autumn Garden to the Next Level
I’d read several books by Piet Oudolf and by Wolfgang Oehme, but I never really “got” the fall garden until I read Fallscaping, by Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen. Somehow those two American women made gardening in the fall accessible to me in a way that those two foreign-born men did not.
This doesn’t really surprise me, as I was impressed with how down-to-earth and practical The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer, their first collaboration, was. They leave no class of plant behind in their quest to help you maximize the beauty from your fall garden, and provide you with dozens of design strategies. And if their words don’t convince you, the photographs by Rob Cardillo will totally wow you. Take a look at this combination of pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii).
I had seen the bluestar’s fall foliage profiled in many an article about fall color, but that pink muhly–where has it been all my life? (Answer: further south. A cursory search reveals it is only marginally hardy in Zone 5.) I can easily visualize it fronted with colchicums or backed by purple-leaved smokebush.
Another combination I enjoyed was the pairing of ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranth and perennial sunflower (Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’).
I really like the contrast of dark maroon with pale lemon yellow, and had tried Cephalaria gigantea with Aster ‘Lady in Black,’ but the cephalaria is too tall. (They don’t call it giant scabious for nothing! Scabiosa ochroleuca would probably work better.)
But it’s not all about glitz and glamor. Ondra and Cohen also appreciate the subtle effects, such as this solitary katsura tree that positively glows.
Fall techniques provide how-to
Another feature of the book that I really appreciate is the fall techniques interspersed throughout the book, covering everything from planting bulbs in beds and borders to bringing tender plants through the winter indoors. It’s a pity these techniques aren’t listed in a table or index, because they’re the part of the book you’re most likely to want to refer to again and again.
Garden Plans Tie it All Together for You
For those of you new to the gardening game and perhaps still unfamiliar with the players, a section of the book is devoted to planting plans showing placement in the bed and specifying cultivars. The plants are then further described in a shopping list, which should enable you to find the plants at your local nursery, or for the employees at said nursery to suggest substitutes. But except for these particular plants in the shopping lists, there isn’t a gallery or encyclopedia of plants. Though many plants are described throughout the book, you won’t find them listed alphabetically, because this book is about design strategy, techniques, and inspiration. What you also won’t find is a list of sources, but in this age of internet commerce that’s not too big a problem.
And if you’re still not convinced about the beauty of the autumn garden, you only need to look at author and fellow blogger Nan Ondra’s garden in mid-November. We’ll be talking with Nan tomorrow, so stop by again, won’t you?