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Fashioning Next Fall's Fabulous Show

06 October 2012
 
Red cluster berry cotoneaster shows off these red berries through autumn and later become a bird food source this winter.

It's time for a gorgeous show of color.

Imagine that it's October and that you're enjoying a walk through a forest. The air is crisp, the birds are winging their way south, and Mother Nature is exhibiting every color on her palette. Aspen gold to liquid amber, orange to crimson Maples, all the leaves and berries seem to glisten with color.

But this spectacular image doesn't have to be a fantasy. With careful planning and the right plants, Mother Nature can put on a 'fan-tab-ulous' show right there in your own garden. In the midst of so many selections, here are a few of the plants that can bring an imagined landscape to reality.

Autumn Blaze Red Maple - Just like pumpkins and football games, maples are autumn icons.

During warm weather it's a stupendous shade tree, but Autumn Blaze, "leaves" its best for last. The most brilliant red leaves pop from its branches, surely leaving all other plants envious of such beauty.

Crape Myrtle – Its glossy summer leaves, topped with feathery spikes of flowers ranging from red to coral, and lavender to violet, turn to autumn shades of gold and burgundy.

Everblue Alberta Spruce – Don't forget that contrasting evergreens bring added drama to a landscape. Uniquely blue like a smurf-colored teddy bear, this spruce works well as a foundation plant, in courtyards, and as a patio or entrance accent. As this perfectly shaped evergreen (I mean ever-blue) bush grows only inches a year, it loves the confinement of containers and those tighter spaces in the yard. Absolutely ever-blue, it's such a great plant for local landscapes, that every yard should have one. The unique color provides excellent contrast when positioned against gold aspens, burning bush reds, or simply planted amongst a bed of pansies.

Burning Bush – No other autumn shrub can compare to the flaming red foliage of burning bush. Dense, dark green leaves make it a great hedge plant during the summer, but good things come to those who wait for its autumn-long, intense red colored leaves. After the leaves have dropped the dense corky stems provide striking drama during barren winter days.

Red Cluster Berry Cotoneaster – Several local plants are showing berries that will last through the holidays to come, but few have such festive reds as this specimen. Although it's the clusters of red berries that set this plant apart, for birds that winter over in our yards few other plants provide such a rich food source. Great berry colors brighten even the darkest of days and make great holiday cuttings from Thanksgiving to New Year celebrations.

Now is the time to plant flowers for fall and winter color, and the sooner the better. These hardy cold weather bloomers need time to root out before the severe freezing that's to come on later in the year. Top off containers and garden beds with violas, pansies, snapdragons, dusty miller, mums, dianthus and more, but do it before the end of October. Timing is everything!

Speaking of timing, this is the time of year that nursery owners travel across the country to garden center retailers' shows, and I'm right there with them. We all are putting together the basics for our next sprint into spring, and, have no fear; Arizona's high mountain 2013 season is going well! I am writing this column while sitting in the Reno airport with orders placed to suppliers, new ideas in mind, and store plans to show off new flower colors, plants, and products. All this effort is aimed at making local gardeners happy and successful.

As many of you know, I personally answer all Facebook posts and enjoy the social sharing of local gardeners. In a bold move I shared new gardening items live from the largest garden show in the west. Usually such previews are only for top managers and key buyers, but as gardeners are always planning their next projects, I decided to include Facebook friends. Thank you, thank you, and thank you for all your feedback. Although not every product posted will be available at your favorite garden centers, perhaps those that caught your eye will be. Join in on the gardeners' fun at Facebook.com/watters1815.

A great landscape design can be tricky to create. Spring and summer gardens are easiest to accomplish, but did you know that at least 35-40% of any landscape should be designed for a strong autumn showing? Then, as leaves begin to drop varied-colored evergreens anchor the landscape. If you need help planning your landscape for year-round beauty, keep in mind that there is assistance far better than a Google search: Ask for help from local gardening professionals!

A few strategically snapped photos can do wonders for the imagination of a good landscape designer. Magazine photos and internet shots of plants you really like can help set the stage for next year's fabulous fall design in your yards.

If you are not sure if a plant you like is right for the mountains of Arizona shoot me a post on my Facebook page, including photos when possible. I usually respond within a day or two depending on how much gardening is needed in my own yard.

Until next week, I'll see you at the garden center.

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