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.
By Stacey Hirvela, Spring Meadow Nursery
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners/ColorChoice Shrubs
Landscaping is often an exercise in problem solving: we may have an ideal plant in mind, only to find that it won’t thrive in our yards because our site or soil isn’t suitable. Fortunately, plants are wonderfully diverse and adaptable, so you’re guaranteed to find beautiful, landscape-worthy shrubs that withstand most any of Mother Nature’s curveballs. Think of the plants listed below as the landscape equivalent of the old saying, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” — they tolerate and even thrive under the difficult conditions commonly found in backyards everywhere. This means less work for you and a better performance from your plants!
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