Foliage and berries are the obvious source of color in the fall garden but there are still plenty of brightly colored flowers to be appreciated at this time of year. If you intersperse them carefully among the earlier flowering plants, they will come into their own when the others are over. Many are tall, so put them at the back of the border and stake them early.
The Japanese maples are outstanding for fall color and there is a good choice. Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum’ is a very small pretty tree at any time of year. It has an attractive shape, the leaves are individually enchanting and the fall foliage is a lovely orange-yellow. Amelanchier lamarckii again has interest for much more of the year than just fall with snowy-white flowers in spring and coppery young foliage, which turns a rich red in fall.
Many of the daisy family give a good show in the fall. Michaelmas daises (Aster) offer a lovely selection of colors. Aster amellus ‘King George’ has large violet-blue flowers, while A. x frikartii, a clear violet-blue color, is free flowering, vigorous and resistant to mildew.
Heleniums specialize in yellows and orange-reds. H. ‘Moerheim Beauty’ has bronze flowers from midsummer. Rudbeckias (Black-eyed Susans) have brightly colored flowers with dark cone-shaped centers. Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ is a wonderful yellow with a black center, which glows brightly from green foliage at the back of the border.
Ceratostigmas are low-growing shrubs with bright blue flowers, which bridge the transition between summer and fall brilliantly. They are suitable for the front of a border, a rock garden or for containers. Their leaves turn red in fall.
Fuchsias are graceful and pendulous with flowers as elegant or as plump as you like. They start flowering in midsummer and will go on until late fall. Fuchsia magellanica is graceful with narrow red flowers and purple calyxes. Its variegated form has pretty pale grey-green leaves with purple markings.
Mop-headed hydrangeas are spectacularly colorful if you have the space. They do well in shrubberies or in large containers. The hortensia varieties have great roung heads of red or blue flowers, which can be very spectacular in summer and fall.
As they die, they become ‘dried flowers’, retaining their colors effectively for a long time. H. ‘Ami Pasquier’ has many vivid crimson flowers (but light blue on acidic soil). It grows slowly, eventually reaching about 1 m (3 ft). H. ‘Vibraye’ is one of the earliest to flower and goes on into fall. Many hydrangea heads will overwinter as a greenish-turquoise color.
Many roses will flower again in fall. The hybrid musks are good value and Rosa ‘Autumn Delight’ and R. ‘Ballerina’, with its pale pink flowers with paler centers, are both excellent value.
The smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) is a large shrub whose inflorescences are just like smoke. The fall foliage of the cultivar ‘Flame’ is brilliant reddish-orange. It should be planted in a place where the sun will shine through the leaves.
The smoke bush
Mountain ash trees (Sorbus) all have lots of good berries. The rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) is a well-known small tree, used freestanding or in a group. It has white flowers, dark green leaves with a grey sheen and clusters of spectacular red fruits. S. ‘Sir Joseph Rock’ has yellow berries and S. vilmorinii has interesting mauve berries.
If you want to combine interesting fruits with security, try Berberis aggregata, which is very prickly and can be planted as a hedge or in a group. It has deep orange clusters of small fruits on wood that is two years old. B. wilsoniae is a very attractive berberis with pink and orange berries.