Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fall in the country garden

I've long been enchanted with the autumnal country garden look pioneered by garden designers Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden in the United States, and Piet Oudolf, in Holland.

One of the reasons we moved to the country was to have the space to grow many late-season perennials and the big swathes of ornamental grasses that look so good with them. I took the picture above one morning early this month looking down at the garden from my front door.

I notice that a lot of gardeners seem to miss out on fall. By late summer, they're ready to throw in the towel. I understand being tired of gardening by August (I know I am!), but it's still a shame to miss out on the beauty of fall.

For the most part, plants that bloom in late summer and fall are tough, drought tolerant and many of them grow tall and dramatic. Another interesting fact is that many of them are North American natives, which accounts for their toughness: they shrug off the drought, heat and humidity of our summers because that's the very climate that shaped their evolution.

For us northern gardeners the growing season is short enough so if you have the space, why not extend the flower show well into fall with some lovely late-bloomers and ornamental grasses? (I have lots of information about fall perennials and ornamental grasses on my web site here and here.)


  1. Thanks! I stopped planting those stupid "hardy mums" years ago and switched to asters. Last year I added some goldenrod. Or rather, the birds did! I love this last burst of color in the fall.

  2. I still haven't picked up my jaw off the floor... such a stunning view you've made there, Yvonne! I made it my computer wallpaper for a while, as I could use the inspiration. :)

    What is the lovely blue grass on the left side of the picture? I'm guessing a panicum virgatum, but the blue ones that I've seen around here are more upright and not as lush and soft-looking as yours.

    And is the bronzey grass in the foreground little bluestem? (I'm reaching here, but I'm hoping you say yes--I planted some of it last year and hope to achieve a similar color as that!)

  3. Hi Blackswamp Girl: I figured there would be comments on this picture as the color is out of this world. That's because I shot it on a misty morning with my Panasonic digicam, which takes nice panoramas but has a very grainy (noisy, they call it) sensor. How it looks is exactly how it came out of the camera, except that I cropped and sharpened it a bit.

    I often pick up this camera when I want a fast picture of some fleeting lovely light. It's the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1, which has a unique way of "painting" a picture that I quite enjoy. My SLR's photos are are much more literal, not like paintings at all.

    Now, to your questions: the grass that looks blue at the bottom is switch grass, (Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal'). I have several different panicums and my current favorites are the upright-growing "North Wind" and the really blue "Dallas Blues". I'll post some pictures of them in upcoming posts on grasses. The bronzy grass in the foreground Karl Foerster's feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'). All you can see of it is the flowers.

    Cheers, Yvonne

  4. That is a stunning garden and a testament to what fall flowering plants and grasses can do for a garden. Well done!

  5. What a pretty picture! Next year I want to start concentrating more on some fall plants, so I`ll go and have a look at your info :)


  6. Really stunning. I'd love to see a plant list (clockwise or counter). I'd guess Piet Oudolf was more the inspiration for this one than Oehme and Van Sweden

  7. Thanks for your comment. Actually, I've been inspired by both Oudolf and OvSweden. The garden around my house is very OvS. I'll post a picture of that soon.

    Gosh, plant lists are a lot of work, but I might try.

    Cheers, Y


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-Yvonne, aka Country Gardener