Design a Gorgeous Fall Garden That Pollinators Will Love
From changing colors, to plants going dormant, to wildlife preparing for winter, there is always a lot going on in a fall garden. Here are some design strategies to create beauty and function for you and your animal friends.
1. Support pollinators by planting late-summer and fall bloomers.
Many insects are at their highest population numbers in fall, so it’s important to plant the flowers pollinators thrive on. You can’t go wrong with asters, goldenrods and sunflowers.
Before planting them, consider how these plants reproduce and spread. For example, some goldenrod species have a tendency to spread and take over, so choosing a more well-behaved goldenrod may be in your best interest. In addition, asters tend to spread by seed, especially in open areas of garden beds, so consider creating thicker plantings where seedlings will have a harder time sprouting.
Keep in mind that plants started this year will not bloom this fall. However, now is the time to get them in the ground for next year!
2. Cluster plants in groups of three or five.
In addition to being appealing to pollinators and easier for them to see, grouping plants and repeating them throughout the landscape gives a subtle sense of cohesiveness for the eye to follow.
A little shrub-like perennial native to the East Coast, aromatic aster is a good general pick to dot throughout beds and borders. Ironweed, which produces dark purple to magenta blooms in early fall, is a great choice for vertical interest. For a lower-growing choice that does well in wetter environments, consider blue mistflower.
3. Reconsider mums.
Desired for their fall color and their strength as container plants, most mums are bred hybrids from East Asia and are not very useful to wildlife like bees and butterflies. However, some mum varieties offer ecological benefits to pollinators. Keep your eyes open for those that look more like asters, or are pollen-producing and single-ray flowers. These particular mums will contribute beauty and function to your fall garden.
4. Add some color.
If your landscape lacks colorful fall foliage, this is the time to plant new trees and shrubs. Cooler temperatures and more rainfall helps them take root and decreases the chance of transplant shock.
Shrubs known for vivid fall color include chokecherry and vibernum species. Native trees that are good choices include elm, sweetgum and serviceberry. In addition, there are many native perennial flowers and grasses that feature robust autumn color, such as bluestar, blazing star, American senna, and little bluestem.
5. Don’t clean up your garden.
This might sound counterintuitive to creating an attractive fall garden, but don’t forget that many plants look fantastic in winter, including rattlesnake master, roundhead lespedeza, Culver’s root, coneflowers, black-eyed Susan, and many grasses. Also, remember that wildlife needs shelter. Plants left standing with a layer of leaves create critical habitat for hibernating birds and insects needing a winter snack.