Crowds descend on Grand Haven, Michigan every summer for its wide beach and interesting downtown shops. An extensive boardwalk follows the bends of the Grand River as it hastens to Lake Michigan along the Grand Haven town limits. Along the way, pretty plantings and small shops make the stroll interesting. In September and October, the crowds are gone and the boardwalk is easy to navigate.
I spotted Tiger Eyes® Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typina 'Bailtiger'), shown in the photograph, along the River Walk. Pink stems carry yellow lacey leaves. As the summer heats up, the leaves take on more of a chartreuse green glow. In the fall, reddish pink starts to creep into the leaf color.
Tiger Eyes® does well in sun or a bit of mid-day shade. It needs watering its first year to be established but in my experience, it won’t take shade from other plants in a border and does not thrive in clay soil. Grand Haven’s soil is sandy.
We stayed in a lovely Inn there on the Grand River, near the mouth to Lake Michigan. Across the way, hydrangea blossoms were blazing red. I’m not sure, but I think these are probably Hydrangeamacrophylla ‘Color Fantasy’ from Novalis Plants That Work. I have one and love the heavy green crinkled foliage with red edges. The foliage takes on more of the red tones as the days shorten and cool. The flowers don’t care what the pH in the soil is; they blossom red all the time. Grow as you would any hydrangea macrophylla, in part sun or shade. Color Fantasy is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.
Ornamental grass comes into its own in the September and October cool days. Their flower heads sway in the gentle breezes, giving motion and substance to the late summer garden. The grass in the photograph was growing near the Color Fantasy hydrangeas. Site grass so that the sun highlights the feathers. Large grass clumps, like this miscanthus, can also hide less than pretty things in the landscape. Look carefully behind the grass and you can just make out a large metal ac unit.
Catmint along the walkway was covered in bees. Novalis has one called ‘Kit Kat’, hardy in zones 3-8, that stays short so that it fits into a sunny landscape without flopping. Its blue flowers cover the plant and are a welcome quiet spot in the fall garden that seems to ripen into reds, yellows, and oranges.
Fall is a good time to take a walk and see what is thriving in your neighborhood. Make notes, take pictures, and plant something new. Gardens can quickly become all about spring. Try growing for Fall. It can be beautiful near the water and in the garden.
Every year, I challenge myself as a gardener to grow something I've never grown before and this year was no exception. As a professional garden writer, I was privileged to be given several exciting new varieties to trial. Additionally, in my travels this year, I had the chance to evaluate many more new plants in trial gardens across the country. The following new annuals, which will be new at retail in Spring 2017, received top ratings in my book.
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