Fall color for your garden

Plant shimmery ornamental grasses and flame-colored flowers for a great fall garden

The modern walkway and bright gardens of a San Luis Obispo home.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Gardening for gorgeous fall color

Homeowners Jim and Jamie deYong chose to mimic the golden hills surrounding their San Luis Obispo home with sunny hues in their garden. A half-dozen species of ornamental grasses grow in neat rows near the perimeter of the garden, tying it to neighboring vineyards. In the front and back courtyards, carex and other short grasses continue the theme, while fiery foliage and flowers add to the autumnal mood.

We've made a guide with the right plants and methods to help you recreate this color scheme in your own yard. Follow this simple formula to produce striking results in any garden, even without the golden hills nearby.

Design Ryan Fortini Design Group, San Luis Obispo, CA (fortinihome.com)

Orange and red plants line the walkway of this modern garden.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Brighten beds with fiery flowers

Plant torch lily beside a red cordyline to make its orange flower clusters really pop. Fill in around both with low mounding grasses, such as Carex glauca, and perennials like Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.

Add a row of Stipa gigantea, like the ones behind the wall, as a backdrop; if possible, position these grasses where the sun can backlight them for part of the day.

Rows of ornamental grass color the side of the home.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Set lighter plants off with chocolate-colored foliage

Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) clusters around a path, while two reddish brown smoke trees draw your eye through golden clouds of flowering Stipa gigantea.

Space ornamental grasses far enough apart so that, after they mature, they can move gracefully in the wind.

A large agave plant sits near rusted steel planters in the back garden.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Add a touch of sunshine yellow

A single well-placed variegated plant can lend a glow to a garden bed. Agave desmettiana  ‘Variegata’ fills that role here; it rises above a sea of creeping carex, sedums, and thyme.

For more burnish, add copper-toned planters such as these rusted steel cubes.

A close-up of flowering torch lily.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Bring on the heat

Torch lily (Kniphofia uvaria). Orange or yellow flower clusters emerge from grassy clumps.

A close-up of flowering pink Sedum 'Autumn Joy'.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Dab on some blush

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’. Dense flower clusters start out blush pink, then age to rust as the weather cools.

A close-up of amber-colored fountain grass.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Mix in neutrals

Fountain grass (Pennisetum orientale). Foxtail-like plumes emerge from 2-foot-tall mounds of gray-green foliage, then fade to golden brown.

A close-up of Hen and chickens and 'Dragon's Blood'.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Choose fiery succulents

Hen and chickens (Sempervivum tectorum). Rosettes of fleshy bronze leaves hug the ground beside smaller Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’.

A close-up of purple leaves on a smoke tree.

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

Get red hot

Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’). Deciduous shrub with purple foliage turns more burnished in fall; flowers resemble puffs of smoke.

Printed from: