APLD CT DESIGNER FORUM -- September/October 2011

Fall Color

Dwarf Fothergilla ( Fothergilla gardenii )

By Richard Schipul (Photo by John Holden )

When I think of fall color, there are so many great plants that come to mind. One of my favorites is Dwarf Fothergilla ( Fothergilla gardenii ). The reason? You never know what you're going to get.

Envision fall foliage in shades of yellow or wine red and everything in between. Dwarf Fothergilla, a pest free, southeastern native, sizzles in the fall landscape. This is one of the reasons why I include it in many of the gardens we design.

To round out the growing season, F. gardenii offers fragrant, dusty white, bottle-brush-shaped flowers that are seen in early spring prior to the emergence of the foliage.

Better yet, in my opinion, are the lime-green flower buds that cover the stems in early spring. Slowly maturing to 3 feet by 3 feet, its small stature makes it a great option for the middle of the border in spots with full sun or light shade.

Find Dwarf Fothergilla at Meadowbrook Nursery in New Milford or your local garden center.

Richard Schipul holds degrees in horticulture and landscape architecture, is a nationally certified landscape designer and the principal of the landscape design and installation company, Designing Eden LLC in New Milford.

Oakleaf Hydrangea ( Hydrangea quercifolia )

By Christine Darnell

With big, coarse leaves nearly 8 inches long, and cone-shaped panicles of flowers almost a foot long, Oakleaf Hydrangea ( Hydrangea quercifolia ) is a strong presence in the garden.

Its flowers, initially white, turn pink-tinged, then brown. The leaves turn a deep bronzy red or various shades of purple in the fall and exfoliating cinnamon-brown bark adds winter interest.

H. quercifolia prefers a site with moist, well-drained soil and dappled sunlight. Many excellent cultivars are available but 'Snow Queen' is a particular favorite of mine. Though native to the southeastern U.S., Oakleaf Hydrangea grows well throughout most of the Northeast.

When happy, this shrub can reach 6 feet by 8 feet and it is equally stunning in a mixed border or woodland garden. It's easy to find in most independent garden centers including Sam Bridge Nursery in Greenwich and Twombly Nursery in Monroe.

Christine Darnell is the principal of Christine Darnell Design Studios in Stamford, a landscape and garden design firm whose work is characterized by dynamic and imaginative plantings, with an emphasis on how plants co-exist and interrelate in nature.

'Fireworks' Goldenrod ( Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks')

By Debbie Roberts

Searching for a perennial to give your garden an explosion of color this fall? Look no further than 'Fireworks' Goldenrod. This long-blooming, deer-resistant native is highly adaptable. Thriving in locations with full sun and well-draining soil, 'Fireworks' also tolerates partial shade and heavy clay soils better than other goldenrods.

Lacy golden flower panicles, about 3 inches tall, shoot out from above its leaves. Even when it's not in bloom, 'Fireworks' adds a fine, feathery texture to your garden. Combine this middle-of-the-border plant with other fall bloomers like New England Aster ( Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ) and Switchgrass ( Panicum ).

'Fireworks' is a veritable buffet for late season pollinators. Bees visit to stock up on pollen, migrating butterflies stop by for a quick sip of nectar and, if flower heads are allowed to set seed, finches, juncos and sparrows are also frequent guests.

Goldenrod is often accused of aggravating hay fever, but ragweed, which blooms at the same time and is wind-pollinated, is the true culprit. Find 'Fireworks' at Hollandia Nursery in Bethel or your local garden center.

Debbie Roberts is a garden coach, writer and principal designer at Roberts & Roberts Landscape and Garden Design in Stamford. She is an Accredited Organic Landcare Professional and blogs about gardening in Connecticut at www.gardenofpossibilities.com