By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of TERRA NOVA® Nurseries, Inc.
Hey campers, where did summer go? While picking up their pumpkins, garden center shoppers look over the choices, mums, kale, mums, yawn. Fall is for planting, and now is the time to have some signage pointing to some other stars of the fall garden that fill in that gap after the dead and ugly annuals are ripped out and the leaves fall. A few containers by the door can co-host a garden show with a supporting cast of gourds and cornstalks.
Our five stars for the fall have unique profiles:
We start with a uniquely colored form of coreopsis (alias tick seed) with burning man orange flowers and lacy foliage that is the perfect contrast to flowering kale. It is aptly named Coreopsis ‘Desert Coral’.
What goes better with the colors of fall than a heuchera with the name, ‘Autumn Leaves’? Warm shades of bronze and orange paint the maple-like leaves which change color as the season changes. It is quite hardy too, allowing you to enjoy it all winter here in the Pacific Northwest and up to the snows in more northern climes.
Want a poker plant that screams orange and is brighter than the pumpkins? Look no further as Kniphofia ‘Mango Popsicle’ is ready to entice with an amazing reblooming habit right up to hard frost. For a pop of true cherry-red there is Penstemon CHA CHA™ ‘Cherry’ with bright spikes that fill a pot and can bloom up to hard frost.
Terra Nova’s last plant pick for fall is Sedum ‘Dark Magic’ with shiny black leaves and rose-colored flower heads that are the cat’s pajamas with pollinators, especially late foraging honeybees, who flock to it.
Large flowers of sun-tanned peach and coral-red cover this lovely plant for months and months. Another hardy coreopsis of TERRA NOVA® breeding that continues to bloom, covering the old flowers so rapidly that it never has a rest period. Dwarf, mounding habit to 9” wide and 14” tall in flower, making it perfect for containers or the front of the border. Bloom time in the Pacific Northwest begins in June with rebloom into October. USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6-10. Foliage needs full sun to be compact and black. Bring on the sun! This is truly one of Terra Nova’s best new plant introductions!
This plant’s maple-esque leaves are bathed in the colors of the four seasons. 'Autumn Leaves' changes its personality as the days grow longer. Mid-sized leaves glow red in the spring, taupe in summer, and ruby red in the fall. One can grow these 18” tall by 8” wide plants in zones4-9. The low, mounding stature of the plant works well as a filler for an autumn-themed container. The leaves are dark enough in fall to present a Halloween theme and by surrounding a coreopsis or kale, it can create quite a contrasting ‘collar’. The H. villosa and H. americana heritage will help with heat and humidity tolerance.
Delicious spikes of sweet, mango-orange bloom continuously summer into fall. The short, grassy 16” foliage looks neat all summer – this is a standard for Terra Nova pokers. A terrific drought-tolerant garden plant. Great in the mid-border and is quite showy! Acres have been planted in China for propagation. When grown in full sun, you can expect flowers from June to October. Deadheading is not required but will look better between flushes of flowers. These must be grown in full sun for best results. This is bred from cold-hardy plants that grow in zones 6-9 and is one of Terra Nova’s top selections!
Dark cherry-red flowers and an upright, bushy habit. It is very free-flowering and blooms from spring to late fall. At 28” tall in flower, with a spread of 14”, this penstemon is happy in the middle of the border and is especially impactful en masse. The lovely dark seed heads are great for arrangements. This beauty is hardy in zones 6-9 and can bloom all the way to frost. Flower spikes typically emerge in July, so consider it a late summer-fall filler, when many annuals are at their worst. Pollinators go nuts for the nectar-rich flowers and it’s a favorite of honeybees here in Oregon.
It has to be dark magic to give so many great characteristics in one plant – amazing huge inflorescences, a short and very upright habit, glossy purple-black leaves, dark pink flowers, and multiple crowns. In addition, 'Dark Magic' has been remarkably disease free and long lived. This is bred from cold hardy plants that grow in zones 4-9. Plants will typically bloom at 15” and spread to 20” in a season. In full sun, the bloom time (period of attractiveness) goes from August to September. A great pollinator plant, it is frequently mobbed by bees seeking its pollen and nectar.
Dan Heims is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world. He was recently honored by the American Horticultural Society with the Luther Burbank Breeding Award, as well as the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit. He was honored by receiving the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding.