Skip to Content

by High Country Gardens

Helianthus maximiliana.

Walking through my rain-revived gardens these past couple of weeks, it finally hit me what makes the fall in the garden, its most beautiful time of year. For one, many of the plants are much larger than those that bloom in the spring. Instead of sheets of blooming bulbs, phlox, cold hardy Delosperma and smaller flowering trees and shrubs, many other medium-sized plants, the fall garden is all about big grasses, towering perennials and brilliant fall foliage.

In the Intermountain, Southwest, and western Great Plains,  the summer rains have brought the native summer and fall blooming plants into their full glory. This also coincides with the hummingbirds’ southerly migration down to southernmost AZ, NM, TX, and Mexico. Not coincidentally, this brings their favorite nectar sources like the Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria) and Sage (Salvia) into flower. Other natives plants like Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus), Asters,  Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium), Gloriosa Daisy (Rudbeckia), Goldenrod (Solidago), and all the incredible warm season grasses like Muhly (Muhlenbergia),  Sprobolus, Prairie Switch Grass (Panicum), Little Blue Stem (Schizachrium),  Grama (Bouteloua)  also come into their full glory.  Many Old World shrubs  and perennials like Russian Sage (Perovskia), and re-blooming English Lavender and grasses like Chinese Maiden Grass (Miscanthus) and Fountain Grass (Pennisetum) throw their flowers into the ring as well.

Russian Sage, agastache, helianthus and zinnia.

I’ve been trying for many, many years to convince gardeners, who don’t already appreciate the glory of fall, the flowers don’t need to stop when early summer has past. Yes, fall is more than just Mums, flowering cabbage, kale and pansies. These are wonderful plants, but can be worked in with many other fall blooming perennials for an incredible effect.