Perennial Fall Color (Perennial Borders)

Perennial Fall Color (Perennial Borders)

Part of Ep. 705 Fall Color in the Garden

Enjoy the fall perennial borders at the Allen Centennial Gardens on the UW-Madison campus.  Horticulture grad student Ed Lyons introduces colorful fall-blooming options for your garden.

Premiere date: Oct 30, 1999

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
We're at Allen Centennial Gardens on that University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. This is a public garden worth visiting any time of year. We're with horticulture grad student Ed Lyon. Ed also is co-operator of a local nursery. You know Ed, you say fall color to someone living in Wisconsin and we all think trees and shrubs.

Ed:
Well, that's the obvious thing to think about with fall color. But we have to remember our perennial borders have a lot of color and interest as well in the fall.

Shelley:
Well, it'd be great to have fall color a little closer to the ground sometimes, too. You've got one here that-- well look at how it just glows in the sunlight. This is just beautiful.

Ed:
This is one of my favorite ornamental grasses. This is called Japanese blood grass. And you can see why it's one of my favorites. It has that striking red color right straight through the season.

Shelley:
Now, I've been told that this is a zone five and I figured that's why I probably had trouble with it in my own backyard.

Ed:
Well, I don't think the zone is the problem for you, Shelley. I think the problem here is drainage. We've had a clump in our nursery for ten years and it sits on some very well drained soil.

Shelley:
So, it's worth trying pretty much throughout the state, but not in clay.

Ed:
That's correct. The place where you're going to find the biggest problem with it is in the wintertime. It does not want to have water held around the root system in the winter.

Shelley:
So, well-drained especially in winter. Now you told me that the south actually has a problem with this grass.

Ed:
Yes, actually it has been labeled an invasive in southern climates, but we don't have to worry about that here. It acts more like a clumping grass here than a spreading grass.

Shelley:
Well, that's nice. It'll stay well behaved if I can just get rid of my clay then. You know, we're talking about fall foliage, we can't forget something like the hosta right there. It's not something we all think of, but look at how it glows.

Ed:
And that certainly does and it really brightens up a shady spot. There are other ways to get colors in the fall, too. From the nursery, i brought in a vine that you might find interesting. And the reason that it is so is because of the fruit or the berries that are on it. And if you'll notice, they keep changing colors as they mature. You get a wide variety of colors through it.

Shelley:
What is it?

Ed:
This is the porcelain berry vine.

Shelley:
It looks like porcelain almost, the berry color is beautiful. Is this something I can grow throughout Wisconsin?

Ed:
Well, I'm not sure about the northern regions and zones three, but certainly worth giving it a try in a protected spot. It does very well in this area.

Shelley:
So, maybe mulch it over the winter, too.

Ed:
That's what I would do.

Shelley:
Is it a vigorous grower?

Ed:
It's fairly vigorous, although not aggressive. It will grow out to 20 feet long.

Shelley:
Wow.

Ed:
You do need a fairly heavy trellis for it to climb on.

Shelley:
So, a strong support for this thing to go up.

Ed:
Right.

Shelley:
Okay. You know, we've been talking about foliage and fruit, we should know to look for flowers, I mean you've got some back here that add color to a garden.

Ed:
One of the problems is getting fall-blooming flowers beyond the asters and mums. And one of my favorites is the Japanese anemone. Most people think of the anemone as a spring blossoming flower. The Japanese anemone starts about the first part of September and it will bloom non-stop even through some of the light frosts.

Shelley:
Incredible. I've got some with more mauve-pink colors to them, too, so there's a range of colors.

Ed:
There is a range. They start white and they do run into some light pinks and lavenders.

Shelley:
What do we do to keep it happy in our garden?

Ed:
Well, it does need a moist, well-drained soil. But the other thing that's really nice about it is it will tolerate some light shade, as well as full sun.

Shelley:
So, for people with shade that's a good choice to try maybe.

Ed:
That's correct.

Shelley:
Now, what about this?

Ed:
This is common pearly everlasting. And this actually a native species. It does grow in our prairies in the midwest.

Shelley:
Sun, shade?

Ed:
If prefers full sun. It will tolerate some light shade as you can see here. The thing that's really nice about this plant is it's striking right straight through the season with that real nice silvery-blue foliage.

Shelley:
And then, you can see flowers just starting too, that are starting to stand out from the foliage itself.

Ed:
Many people will probably know this plant as a good dried flower, but it also makes nice cut flowers as well.

Shelley:
What I like is the way some of the colors in front of it stand out better.

Ed:
That's why I use the silvers and blues in my perennial borders. You'll find that it really makes other colors stand out and become much more vibrant.

Shelley:
And with full sun, I'm betting again we're looking at well- drained soil for that.

Ed:
Exactly, especially being that it's a prairie plant.

Shelley:
Here's another one with foliage that I don't think people think of for fall color.

Ed:
Well, it's one that most people know. This is heuchera or coral bells. But they don't think about it for fall color. And if you'll notice it really has some very striking color, it becomes very vibrant in the fall.

Shelley:
Those purples on the undersides!

Ed:
Well, and they're breeding a lot of this plant now. One of the things that I really like is the variations that's they're getting in venation and the leaf-splotching.

Shelley:
And you see some that are almost chocolate and others that almost lean more toward almost a red color. So there's a lot of choices, too.

Ed:
There's a lot of variation in heucheras now.

Shelley:
I think of this as shade plant, though.

Ed:
It actually does very well in full sun. It does need to have a moist root system if you grow it in full sun.

Shelley:
Okay, so again, some good mulch, good soil around it.

Ed:
Exactly, keep that root system moist.

Shelley:
One last plant we've got to talk about is this outstanding vine over here.

Ed:
This is sweetautumn clematis and the reason it's termed sweetautumn is because it has a wonderful fragrance.

Shelley:
It's almost, to me, like a scent of honey in the air. It's beautiful in the late fall.

Ed:
And if it's blossoming in your yard you're going to smell it throughout the yard. It has a really outstanding floral display. And the other thing that's really nice about it is that the flowers turn into a beautiful purple seed head that also adds interest in the winter.

Shelley:
And they'll stick around well beyond the growing season, so it's really kind of a four season plant.

Ed:
Yes, it's an exciting plant for your garden.

Shelley:
Do we grow it like we grow other clematis?

Ed:
It's a little hardier than most of the clematis we're used to, but it still has the same cultural requirements. It does like the root system kept cool and it does like full sun, although this one will also tolerate some part shade.

Shelley:
So, a good one for beginners to try, too.

Ed:
Oh, most definitely.

Shelley:
Thanks Ed. All of these are great choices to extend interest to a fall garden.

Even long after the leaves have all fallen, there are plants that will make your garden more interesting and colorful. Choose trees, shrubs and vines with persistent fruit. The fruit of this bittersweet vine will remain beautiful well into the new year. For other ideas, visit your local public arboretum, or take a walk in the woods. You'll find that mother nature is very inspirational. I'm Shelley Ryan. Thank you for joining me on the Wisconsin Gardener.

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