Long after summer’s flowers have faded away, foliage plants keep fall gardens alive with color and texture

Falling for Foliage

Photo by Maddie McNamara

September and October are glorious months on Cape Cod and the Islands, when the air temperatures cool down, but ocean and bay waters remain warm. The balmy water all around us means that flowers and shrubs in our gardens stay vibrant with healthy plant life long after gardens over the bridge have gone to sleep for the winter.

Autumnal flowering perennial plants in border gardens such as bold yellow “Black-Eyed Susans,” cool purple Agastache, and rosy-hued Sedum provide color throughout the fall, however, many gardeners have learned that foliage plants—perennials and shrubs planted for the color, shape, and texture of their leaves or needles—are beautiful elements for gardens that often have few flowering plants left after summer’s long blooming period.

Every gardener has their favorite foliage plants from evergreens to ferns to Hostas in nearly every size, shape, and color imaginable. There are certain foliage plants, like Hosta, that boast more than 70 species, from the tiny “Blue Mouse” variety all the way up to the gigantic chartreuse “Sum and Substance,” that can be the backbone of fall gardens, with foliage in an endless array of hybridized choices. Handsome variegated choices like “Patriot” and “Regal Splendor” are available in local nurseries and garden centers with colorations in every shade of green, yellow, blue, and cream.