Close this search box.



It’s an unsettling time in the garden. Part of me looks around, thinks about all the tasks that must get done before it gets too cold out to want to do them and wants to just get on with it, and the other part of me realizes that the garden is still looking fantastic. 
And a walk around the garden shows that the best looking plants right now are also, in general, among the easiest to care for. In fact, with one exception, the most I have deal with any of these plants is once a year. That’s it. One tiny little bit of attention paid to them once.
Anything that requires that little care and provides this much pleasure is surely an all-star.
Korean feather reed grass is full of the most lovely fluffy flowerheads right now. The only thing I do to it is cut it back in late winter or very early spring. I supposed some day I’ll have to divide it, but that’s a rarity.
It provides a great backdrop to the thick, ruffly leaves of Gingko biloba ‘Gnome’. Or is it the other way around?
Hydrangeas are the gift that keeps on giving. I can’t imagine a garden without them. The panicle hydrangeas in particular shine at this time of year. This is ‘Bobo’, which is now in its fourth month of bloom (seriously, it started in June) and is now showing almost neon pink coloring.

‘Quickfire’ hydrangea has been pink for at least a month (hence the name), and is still looking great.

Hakonechloa is a good-doer all around, but ‘All Gold’ in particular shines in autumn light. Again, all I do to it is cut it back in late winter and I only divide it when I want more of it, which it happily provides.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Stripe it Rich’ gets great seed heads this time of year.

While all the plants around it are starting to look tattered, especially the slug-damaged hostas and the deer-munched ‘Incrediball’ hydrangeas, the groundcover Lamium maculatum ‘Pink Chablis’, seems to always look fresh and lively.

It wouldn’t be early fall in the garden without Rudbeckia. It’s the standard by which all fall-blooming perennials should be measured. I cut it back in spring, leaving the stems standing for the birds and winter interest.

Sedums just sit back as the unnoticed wallflowers all summer, but come early fall, they are stars. I also leave the standing over winter and I try to cut them back in about June to keep them a little stockier and prevent flopping.

Not all that is beautiful in the early fall garden is foliage or flower. These berries on Viburnun x juddii are so bright and shiny. I will enjoy them until the birds find them. I literally do nothing to this shrub other than admire it. What more can you ask for?

Roses hardly fall under the “low maintenance” category that the rest of these plants fall under, but it would be remiss of me to ignore them in a listing of the best plants in the garden in early fall. Here in zone 5, now is the time when most roses get a stunning second flush of flowers, so long as the gardener has been diligent about deadheading earlier in the year. This is ‘The Alnwick Rose’, which I planted in late spring.

Nature has a way of reminding us to enjoy every day and not rush to what’s coming next. Plants like this are proof.


4 Responses

  1. Some new plants for me to consider…I am always looking up plants you feature to see if they would work for me in Z 4. Also, I am going to try cutting back my tall sedums next June. Thanks for the idea. I have a variegated one and one with dark burgundy leaves. I love the foliage of both, but they get so leggy and floppy. I will try that. This year I cut back all my tall asters in June, and it sure made a difference. They are SO much fuller.

    1. I always cut back my asters and mums the last week of June (this week) and still get lots of blooms and the plants don’t flop. I just experimented with cutting back Yarrow Coronation. Not sure it will rebloom – I’ll have to wait and see. I might have to replace it with a shorter Yarrow.

  2. Everything does look great and that rose is stunning. My Hakonechloas all look good as well. Nice to have something that is holding up to the temps and the dryness. It appears that we've had just under a half an inch of rain in Sept. at my house. Ugh!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

What would you like to know? Search, or jump to categories below.