Plants to Keep Your Pond Radiant This Fall

Weeping Norway spruce

Weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Pendula’), Tussock sedge (Carex stricta) and purple flame grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’).

It won’t be long before the trees turn and you pull out your favorite sweater to enjoy the crisp air and calming hues of autumn. Once the marginals and deep-water plants begin to die back, it is time to prune them and send them to deeper waters before winter.

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Preparing a pond for the upcoming cold months does not mean foregoing color. If winterizing your flowering water plants leaves you with all green, it’s time to think about incorporating some border plants that will add a different kind of beauty for every season, including dimension and color in the fall. Our eyes are drawn upward into the trees during this time, but with some foresight and proper planning, seasonal color around the pond can blend and blossom along with the weather.

 Whether your pond is long established or brand-new, it’s important to consider planting with all seasons in mind. This is often overlooked, as the concentration of flowers in spring and the long-lasting color through summer tend to take precedence. Planting with all seasons in mind makes for beautiful, seasonal transitioning. Foliage and flowers that add interest, depth, texture and color to the fall landscape take some planning and time, but are well worth the time and effort. A bit of research into color schemes, balance, focal points and zones will help. It’s not easy designing a landscape that incorporates all seasons. But even if you are a beginner, there are some simple things you can do to continue to enjoy color around your pond.

Before planting, it is important to do some zone research and think about heights and variations. Always keep in mind that the visual impact is amplified near water — the reflection will duplicate your landscape!

Trees and Shrubs

As with any planting, zone research is critical. Choose trees and shrubs for color, texture and visual interest. Some trees and shrubs provide contrast not only in the foliage, but in the bark as well. Bark that peels or has unique color adds tons of character.

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A fall collection of mixed sedum, prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis, with a fragrance that some liken to buttery popcorn) and a service berry (Amelanchier).

Dogwoods, spruces and evergreens are great backdrops for lower-growing plants. Many species are hardy in several zones and provide color throughout fall and winter. Japanese maples are wonderful to have around water. They do require a bit more care than a standard maple, especially when young. Plant these in a partly shady area with well-drained soil, away from strong, windy areas. There are many varieties of this tree, but nearly all of them will provide remarkable color in the fall.

Grasses and Groundcovers

Grasses and groundcovers can add a variety of texture to the landscape. An excellent groundcover that blooms from spring through fall is sedum, a drought-tolerant succulent that needs mild pruning if it begins creeping too far. A mixed sedum around walkways or the edge of the pond softens and adds small bursts of color.
Grasses, reeds and grass-like plants need to be planted according to their specific species. Some grasses can tolerate a dry, hot location, but others require moist soil. Grasses provide many shades in autumn, from golden ambers to silvery blues. One of my favorites is fountain grass, or Pennisetum alopecuriodes. It’s easy to grow and provides color and texture to any landscape. It is also very easy to care for and produces fuzzy blooms, which soften their spiked leaves. It will grow up to 5 feet in the right conditions. Red fountain grass is a great fall accent.
We recently incorporated some herbs — thyme, oregano and rosemary — into a rocky edge of a pond. They add fragrance and texture to the area and can be harvested throughout the fall.

Flowers

You can plant just about any flower around a pond, but consider what you want the focus to be before adding flowers. The eye will be pulled to color first, possibly redirecting your attention away from the intended purpose of the pond, such as a waterfall or stream. Deciding on the color and texture is a combination of personal preference, hardiness and location. As with any flower, checking for light and shade requirements is important. Choose your color palate and create a basic layout in order to avoid planting larger flowers in front of low-growing ones. Here are a few flowers hardy in Zone 5:

Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis

Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis

The Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis) is a graceful, yet hardy flower that is both sun and shade-tolerant and available in white, pinks and purple. It can grow up to 5 feet. The blooms add a gentle touch of elegance and grace.

Dahlias pack a punch of color! In front of a sea of anemone, they will certainly turn heads. These are grown from tubers, and if a particularly cold winter is in the forecast, you might want to dig them up before the snow falls. Dahlias come in a variety of sizes and colors, so be sure to choose the right size for the location.

For both color and smell, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) will do the trick. The tall spikes grow from 3 to 5 feet, but smaller varieties can be found that stay around 2 feet tall. There are both dark and light blues available.

Set Your Sights on the Seasons

As cooler weather approaches, add interest, depth and color with a plan in mind for transitional color, unity and balance. It is important to find plants that are appropriate for your zone, considering both the cold approaching weather and the heat they must live through until blooming season starts next year. From spring through summer and into fall, your pondscape should be dynamic — an ever-changing visual and emotional appeal of textures and colors.

Weeping Norway spruce

Weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Pendula’), Tussock sedge (Carex stricta) and purple flame grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’).

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