Fall Planting Ideas From the Authors of Fine Foliage

We are super lucky to have Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, the Seattle-based authors of Fine Foliage grace us with some design ideas ...


We are super lucky to have Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, the Seattle-based authors of Fine Foliage grace us with some design ideas for autumn. We’ve been in love with their book since we opened it earlier this year, and had them drum up some special Sunset creations. They’ll offer up a design idea every Tuesday for the next three weeks.

Do your summer containers look tired? Has your garden lost its ‘wow’ factor now that the main bloom season is coming to an end? There’s no need to settle for less than fabulous if you focus on foliage. Fall is the perfect time to freshen up those pots by replacing some of the spent summer flowers with gorgeous leafy jewels.

This week, our suggestion is to plant a Fall Sunset:

Why this works: Warm sunset shades extend the late summer garden into fall. Tall grasses, a purple barberry, the rich mahogany bark of the paperbark maple and soft golden tones of a spirea create a picture frame for the bold orange crocosmia flowers. A backdrop of evergreens adds depth to the scene. This palette will continue to evolve as the knobby orange seedheads of the crocosmia will play off the autumnal pumpkin shades of the maple foliage.

Key Players:

Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) – the chestnut brown peeling bark is the hallmark of this maple but the foliage is equally noteworthy, the mid-green leaves turning to shades of gold and deep orange in fall.  To 18’ tall x 15’ wide, Sunset Climate Zones 2–9, 14–21

Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) – a wonderful vertical element in the landscape, lasting well into the winter. The tan flowering stems rise to 5-6’ tall with the basal foliage spreading to 2’. Sunset Climate Zones 2B–24

‘Rose Glow’ barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’) – an arching shrub with purple, pink and white splashed leaves along its thorny stems. The variegation is most noticeable on young foliage so pruning in spring is a good idea. 4’ tall and wide. Sunset Climate Zones A3, 2B–24 (If this is invasive in your area substitute a purple leaved weigela, fringe flower or ninebark)

Double Play® Big Bang spirea (Spiraea ‘Tracy’ ) –coppery new growth above the more mature golden leaves makes this a winner. Large flat heads of pink flowers throughout the season will satisfy the flower lover. A 3’ mound hardy in Sunset Climate Zones A2, A3, 2–10, 14–21.

Conditions: Full sun, well-drained soil