Taking an End of the Season Look at Your Landscape

Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Amibition' is a great ornamental grass for a fall garden

Now that fall is officially here (September 22nd, 2013 was the Fall Equinox), and your landscape plants are dropping their leaves, this is a great time to take a stroll through your yard because it’s easier to see the details.  Fill up a mug of hot tea (or grab a bottle of beer) and take a leisurely look around.  Enjoy some quiet time in your yard.  And direct a critical eye toward what areas and plants were the standouts this year.  Where are the places and plants that didn’t do well or were lacking color and texture?  Take a note pad and write it down.  Make some sketches.  Get inspired for next year.

Take a list of plants you’re interested in planting along with you and identify where they would do best.  And while you’re walking around thinking about putting some polish on your garden, I’d like to make a few suggestions that would help.

Look where the afternoon light shines into your landscape.  This low angled sunlight defines the fall and winter garden.  Are there places where some ornamental grasses could be planted to catch that light?  Here are some warm season grasses (those that bloom in mid-summer into fall) to mark down to order for next spring:

- ‘Blonde Ambition’ Blue Grama grass (Bouteloua)

- Prairie Switch Grass (Panicum cultivars)

- ‘Windbreaker’ Giant Sacaton Grass (Sporobolus)

- ‘Llano’ Indian Grass  (Sorghastrum)

- Ruby Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia reverchonii)

Shrubs with colorful fall foliage, like late blooming grasses, are commonly forgotten when planting in the spring.  But a lack of them in your fall landscape is readily noticeable.  My favorite native shrubs for colorful leaves are:

Prunus besseyi Pawnee Buttes

Prunus besseyi 'Pawnee Buttes' in the fall with Dwarf Pinus nigra

- New Mexico Privet (Forestiera)

- ‘Pawnee Buttes’ Sand Cherry (Prunus besseyii).  ‘Pawnee Buttes’ is a groundcover shrub and makes a nice “skirt” when planted around the base of a taller shrub like New Mexico Privet.

Fall blooming perennials, like shrubs with colorful fall foliage, are also overlooked during the frenzy of spring planting.  But again, their absence now is very noticeable.  Write these down and get them in your spring 2014 plant order:

- Hummingbird Trumpet or Fire Chalice (Zauschneria arizonica) with its blazing orange flowers is required planting.

- West Texas Grass Sage (Salvia reptans, West TX form) is fabulous with its cobalt blue flowers.

Salvia Raspberry Delight with Salvia reptans

Salvia Raspberry Delight with Salvia reptans (West Texas form)

- ‘Raspberry Delight’ Sage (Salvia hybrid) is a non-stop bloomer from late spring until hard frost in October or November.  Superb!

- Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is a fantastic groundcover that blooms in August and September and then turns to burgundy-red in October as its foliage changes color from glossy green.

- Giant Silver Germander (Teucrium cussonii) with its silver, evergreen foliage and fragrant pink flowers that go through summer into late fall is a fantastic groundcover for covering large areas and anchoring sloped beds.

-Re-blooming English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a great season extender blooming in late spring/early summer and again in August and September.  ‘Sharon Roberts’, ‘Buena Vista’ and ‘Pastor’s Pride’ are three excellent re-bloomers.

Text and Photos by David Salman

Browse Ornamental Grass

  • Los Lunas Form of Giant Sacaton Grass Sporobolus wrightii Windbreaker

    Starting at $10.99

    Sale: $9.34

    Per Plant - 3.25" deep pot

  • Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass Bouteloua gracilis Blonde Ambition PP#22,048

    Starting at $11.49

    Sale: $10.34

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • White Cloud Muhly Grass Muhlenbergia capillaris White Cloud

    Starting at $11.99

    Sale: $10.79

    Per Plant - 3.25" deep pot

  • Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass Calamagrostis acutiflora Karl Foerster

    Starting at $11.99

    Sale: $10.19

    Per Plant - 3.25" deep pot

2 thoughts on “Taking an End of the Season Look at Your Landscape”

  • Scott Weber

    Hi David,

    I'm a gardener in Portland, OR. I'm interested in Muhlenbergia reverchonii. I had M. capillaris for a few years...and while it bloomed, it was really late in the season, right about the times our rains returned, and the blooms got pretty bashed. Can you make a guess as to when M. reverchonii might bloom here in the PNW? Thanks!

    • David Salman

      Scott, Muhlenbergia reverchonii (Ruby Muhly) usually blooms beginning in mid-to late August, many weeks earlier than Muhlenbergia capillaris. So it is a good bet to be in full glory long before your fall rains set in. Ruby Muhly is also better than M. capillaris in colder climates because of its much earlier bloom time. It is a superb species.

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