Autumn is a time for rich colors, deep oranges, reds and golds. Not only do the falling leaves set the tone, but we feel the need for warmth before heading into winter. Warm colors and bold flowers are especially satisfying this time of year. Set these colors off with purples, blues and whites for contrast. Don't forget that the foliage of perennials that flower earlier can enhance the garden, too, with lacy or bold textures.
Fall is a great time to take stock of your garden and plan for the future. Make notes of what you particularly liked this year, the combination of colors that really worked and the flowers that grew the best for you. Look around at what's blooming now, the annuals that are still going strong, and the chrysanthemums, asters and other perennials that are coming into bloom. Write down your thoughts on what you'd like more of, which plants to divide and which to remove.
Looking Toward Spring
Fall is the time to plant tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs, of course, but think about planting winter pansies above them in complementary shades. The pansies will give you color through December and January and still have blooms when spring arrives.
In mild areas, calendulas will often keep blooming throughout the winter, adding gold and yellow touches of color to the garden. Other hardy annuals such as baby-blue-eyes, sweet alyssum and larkspur can be sown in fall to bloom the following spring.
Getting More Plants
Fall is the time to divide your perennials or get starts from friends. Do it early enough to allow roots to re-establish themselves before the ground freezes. You'll also find a good selection of fall-blooming perennials in nurseries. But don't expect these newly planted flowers to be as hardy as those that have had a few years to establish a good root system. Give them an extra layer of mulch or throw a sack filled with packing peanuts over them during the coldest weather.
Caring for Your Flowers
Remove old flowers to keep your annuals and perennials blooming until frost. Don't fertilize this time of year to avoid forcing out tender new growth, but do plant spring bulbs and new perennials with a sprinkling of bulb food at the bottom of the planting hole to nourish the roots.
Preparing for Winter
Do a last, thorough weeding and then mulch to keep dandelions and chickweed from sprouting in winter or early spring. Remove any diseased leaves and put them in the trash, not the compost. Don't be in too much of a hurry to remove dead leaves after frost, though. The untidy foliage can prevent winter injury to your plants by creating a slightly sheltered microclimate next to the ground.