Fallscaping

by Nancy J. Ondra and Stephanie Cohen (Storey Publishing, 2007, 240 pgs.)

In Fallscaping, Stephanie Cohen’s second collaboration with fellow gardening expert Nancy Ondra, the secrets to extending a garden’s beauty into autumn are revealed and explored. A surprising number of flowering plants bloom in the fall, and one mustn’t forget other sources of color, such as berries, grasses, and, of course, foliage. The color photos in this book are truly inspiring, especially if you tend to think of fall as a time when your garden is past its prime.

Fallscaping is divided into four parts. Part 1 covers the “key players” in a fall garden: fall-blooming plants, fall foliage, and seeds and berries. The authors discuss long-blooming and late-blooming perennials and provide insight into the importance of deadheading to extend the blooming season. Hardy bulbs, such as fall crocuses and lesser-known bulbs like autumn daffodil, are also discussed, as are late-blooming annuals. There are also quite a few late-flowering shrubs, trees, and vines that can lend floral accents to a fall garden. Of course, fall is known for its colorful foliage, and the authors provide a wealth of suggestions for plants with stunning fall leaves, from grasses to trees. The unique qualities of seed heads and berries are highlighted as well. The section on seeds includes some helpful tips on saving and sowing seeds, and seed collecting is also discussed in Part 2.

Part 2, titled “Perfect Partners for Fall,” provides a wide variety of suggestions for plant groupings that will maximize fall color. For example, you might combine a Japanese maple, monkshood, and red-twig dogwood for a brightly colored foundation planting. Or perhaps a shady corner of the garden can be brightened up with Japanese painted fern and toad lily. If you want to lure wildlife like beneficial insects and birds into the fall garden, how about a colorful bed of coneflower, aster, millet, goldenrod, and Joe Pye weed? The bees and butterflies will enjoy it while it blooms, and the birds will devour the seeds later in the fall.

Part 3 goes a step further and provides 10 complete landscape plans for fall gardens: (1) a sunny street-side border; (2) a shady deck border; (3) a doorway garden; (4) a garden bed specially designed to appeal to birds; (5) a side-yard garden; (6) a pastel-colored garden; (7) a mixture of flowers, vegetables, and herbs; (8) a low-maintenance foundation border; (9) a garden that emphasizes tropicals and tender perennials; and (10) a shade container garden. Each suggested landscape plan includes descriptions of the proposed plants and possible alternatives.

In Part 4, the authors discuss essential garden maintenance, including tasks specific to fall, such as preparing plants for winter. More general garden tasks are also discussed, including soil improvement, creating new garden beds, propagation, and weed control.

Throughout Fallscaping, helpful sidebars provide tips on a wide variety of gardening topics, such as planting bulbs in pots, staking and supporting plants, pairing spring bulbs with later-blooming plants, avoiding invasive plants, dividing perennials, pinching and deadheading, and much more.

Fallscaping is an inspiring book. Even for gardeners in colder climates, it shows how a garden’s best features can be enjoyed almost year-round. The authors clearly have an eye for color and for using colors in pleasing combinations. And the useful gardening tips provided throughout make this more than just a book about gardening in fall. Instead, Fallscaping is a book that will prove useful throughout the year.

Andrea Kingston, RCGC library volunteer, January 2012.