October is here and, the nights become cool and the sun, being lower in the sky, throws a vivid spotlight on trees and shrubs as they change into their cloaks of colour. The days sparkle with autumn sunlight and leaves, berries, cabbages, mums, and pumpkins capture our attention. We revel in this fleeting moment, knowing that autumn is, as William Cullen Bryant described, “the year’s last loveliest smile.”
The spell of autumn encourages an inward attitude which has inspired many writers, poets and artists over the years to exult in its colourful display and quiet moments. In the following photos, I offer ideas for an alluring autumn garden and have coupled it with an appropriate seasonal quote. This pairing celebrates autumn in the sweetest of ways, just like apple cider and cinnamon.
“There is a harmony in autumn and a lustre in its sky…” —Percy Bysshe Shelley
Have a bench? Let a friendly scarecrow take a seat. This one is not stuffed with straw but it evokes the same feeling. Replace your summer flowers with a deep red chrysanthemum as shown here. The contrast of the light-coloured planter, red flowers, and dark evergreen background make a striking display. The bag of tulip bulbs on the bench is temporary—they are to be planted for next spring’s eye-catching display.
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it….” —George Eliot
Anemone x hybrida (Japanese anemones), known as windflowers, are the stars of an autumn flower garden. These Asian natives are perennials that bear large, single or double, cup-shaped blossoms featuring satiny petals and a gold central button. The pink ‘Queen Charlotte’ has flowers on 3-to-4-foot-tall stems in mid-autumn. They thrive in full sun to part shade.
“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.” —Nathaniel Hawthorne
Limelight Hydrangea is an outstanding, hardy, and carefree shrub that continues to attract attention all the way into autumn. Its chartreuse-to-lime flowers appear in early to midsummer and cover the 6-to-8-foot-tall shrub. As they mature, the large, 8-inch-long flowers darken to all shades of pink, and in the autumn turn a rich rosy hue. When the blossoms fade, the Limelight foliage turns a burnished red. Grow them in sun to light shade.
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” —L.M. Montgomery
Place planters filled with varying colours of mums on steps for a warm, inviting welcome. Add variegated, green and white, trailing ivy and place small pumpkins in the pots for a seasonal look. The blue planters shown act as colourful accents. Note the wall lights set into the stone wall in this photo. In the evening, these louvred lights illuminate the steps and highlight the flowers to create a lovely effect.
“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.” —Samuel Butler
The small ornamental tree, Cornus chinensis var. Kousa (kousa dogwood), is known for its early summer display of abundant white flowers. But in autumn it sports red, succulent fruit that resembles raspberries (they are not considered edible). The autumn display of these berries and the purple and scarlet leaves make the kousa dogwood a tree to consider for any garden. It has a beautiful form with horizontal branching. It grows in partial shade to full sun and grows to a height of 15 to 25 feet.
“After the leaves have fallen, we return to a plain sense of things. It is as if we had come to an end of the imagination, inanimate in an inert savoir.” —Wallace Stevens
In an autumn planter, you can plant an evergreen boxwood and surround it with seasonal items. Although you may associate pansy flowers with spring, they are also used to add colour in pots and beds in autumn. Here, small ornamental gourds and yellow pansies are combined with the dark green leaves and red berries of the Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen plant). The foliage of wintergreen has a strong minty scent when crushed, and the red fruits are aromatic.
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.” —Nathaniel Hawthorne
A shrub border featuring the deciduous Spiraea japonica ‘Goldmound’ (Japanese spirea) is dazzling in the autumn. In spring the foliage on this 2-to-3-foot-tall shrub is a vibrant yellow, and in early summer clusters of pink flowers appear. The colour of the leaves cool to a yellowish green in summer and in the fall they turn a rich golden yellow as shown here. It is a great colour addition to any border, and you can even add it to a planter.