Color your yard with fall plants

0
Purple asters from Vineyard Gardens, left, and dahlias from Heather Gardens, right, are just some of many choices gardeners have for fall planting. — Photo by Susan Safford

Fall arrives with a whole new range of colors and choices that Vineyard gardeners can employ. Four of the Island’s gardening centers offer advice for what looks nice now and what’s best to plant.

Paula Dellarusso of Donaroma’s in Edgartown recommends three perennials: Lavender, Russian sage, and heuchera. Lavender, with its pung ent smell and muted green spikes, likes to live in sandy, sun-flooded soil with its roots well drained.

Silvery-purple Russian sage thrives in sunny settings. Like lavender, this plant is aromatic, and its wispy stalks grow as high as five feet. Heuchera, also called coral bells, was named after an 18th century physician.

Ms. Dellarusso says rosemary, mint, oregano, sage, and parsley also do well in fall. Since mint tends to spread, it’s best confined to a container in the ground. Parsley, an annual, often reseeds itself.

A host of shrubs bring new color and vitality to a fall garden. One Vineyard favorite is viburnum, with its shock of white blossoms and red berries. Equally popular on-Island is hydrangeas, ranging in color from bright blue to soft pink. Mophead hydrangeas are sturdier than their more ornate sisters, lacecaps, which lose color quickly in gardens close enough to the water that get salt spray in storms.

Butterfly bush, also known as budleia, comes with blue, white, and purple blooms growing as high as 12 or 15 feet. Ms. Dellarusso also suggests monk’s bush or vitex, known as a folk remedy for female ailments.

“Grasses are gorgeous this time of year,” says Lauren Crosbie of Vineyard Gardens, in West Tisbury. For short grasses, she chooses Indian grass or miscanthus or morning light, which has purple catkins. Both add a beautiful, airy feel to a fall garden.

The iconic flower for fall is the chrysanthemum, found for sale everywhere from supermarkets to variety stores. Ms. Crosbie points out those brilliantly colored mums are annuals grown from clippings. They will revert to their rootstock and produce an entirely different flower.

She recommends perennial mums like sheffield, which come in light pink and have a daisy look, and the Edith Rowley, not to be found in any gardening book. With small clusters of button-like flowers, it turns reddish orange with a yellow eye as it ages.

“We couldn’t find it listed anywhere, so we named it after my grandmother,” explains Ms. Crosbie, who lives in her grandmother’s East Chop house.

Another long-lasting choice for fall is ornamental cabbages and kales. While they are “rip-outs” (annuals), they last through most of the winter. Ms. Crosbie says fall is the perfect time to plant a second round of vegetables. Peas, “if you’re quick about it,” and lettuces — all the short, cool-season ones planted in spring.

For trees, she suggests apples for their fruit, maples for their colors, and the Seven Sons Flowering Tree. The latter, besides producing abundant pink or white flowers, has a handsome peeling bark.

Among the perennials not already mentioned, Mike Saunier of Heather Gardens in West Tisbury suggests sedum. Its lush, star-shaped flowers come in white, purple, and pink. Clematis is another white-blooming favorite. Asters, salvia, and dahlias are also good fall choices. The daisy-like aster blooms in a great variety of colors with heads in contrasting shades. Tall, spiky salvia is also called diviners sage. With richly colored dense blossoms, the dahlia demands more than an ordinary amount of work. Its tubers must be dug up after the first heavy frost and kept in a cool, dry location. Their beauty makes the extra effort worth it.

Mr. Saunier adds arugula, swiss chard, and other leafy crops to the list of veggies that thrive in fall’s cooler weather.

“A lot of people forget about spring bulbs,” says Paul Mahoney of Jardin Mahoney in Oak Bluffs. Now is the time to plant daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, snow drops, and the many other spring perennials. If squirrels or other bulb-eaters plague your garden, Mr. Mahoney advises using repellants, planting deep, and wrapping the bulbs in wire mesh.

He thinks fall is the best time to plant ornamental grasses because you can see what they’re going to do. He adds fountain grass as a good companion to maiden grass or miscanthus.

“Now is when you get the best spinach,” Mr. Mahoney says. He cautions fall gardeners to avoid invasive plants like burning bush, now illegal to sell in Massachusetts. The UMass Extension Service website has a complete list of invasive species.

One shrub choice for fall that often surprises people is blueberry. Its leaves turn an attractive reddish orange. Another shrub to consider is sweet pepper bush, or clethra, the leaves of which turn a brilliant yellow.

The best strategies for a successful fall garden are, first, to check what you see in your neighbor’s gardens. The Vineyard has numerous microclimates that a gardener needs to take into account. Second, Mr. Mahoney suggests looking at what your favorite nursery has in stock. A professional’s advice never hurts.

Brooks Robards, a frequent contributor to The Times, divides her time between Oak Bluffs and Northampton.