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Landscaping Front Yards With Autumn Flowers

Selecting Autumn Flowers for Form and Texture

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No other plant says

No other plant says "fall" like chrysanthemums.

David Beaulieu

On Page 2 we discussed selecting autumn flowers from the standpoint of frugality. Now we turn to the question of how best to use those autumn flowers. One way to begin discussing the use of autumn flowers in landscaping front yards will be in the context of a short introduction to landscape design.

While color schemes immediately come to mind, especially when landscaping front yards for fall, color is but one of the five basic elements of landscape design. Let us look at two of those other elements to see how they can be utilized to enhance your front yard landscaping: namely, texture and form. And if, when purchasing your autumn flowers, you make your selections with an eye to achieving contrast (either in form, texture, or both ), your front yard landscaping will have neighbors convinced that you are a real pro at landscape design.

"Form" roughly corresponds to the shape of a plant. Visual interest can be achieved in landscape design by utilizing contrasting shapes. For example, a mound-shaped plant like Silver Mound artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'), a perennial as far north as planting zone 4, provides a wonderful counterpoint to a spiky plant such as dracena, aptly nicknamed, "spikes" (Dracaena indivisa). Both artemisia and dracaena are grown for foliage, not blooms; so add some autumn flowers to such a planting to inject color.

Landscape designers also take the form of individual components of a plant into account. For instance, the leaves of one plant can possess a form different from those of another plant. Leaf form and bloom form are, in fact, at the very heart of the other landscape design element that we will discuss, namely, "texture."

For the element of form cannot be completely separated from that of texture. Despite the implied reference to tactility, texture is mainly a visual matter in landscape design theory. It is dependent upon the form of the blooms of a plant, or, especially, its leaves. Furthermore, texture is contextual; that is, speaking of the texture of a plant in isolation makes little sense -- a context must be provided. We draw conclusions about plant texture based on how it compares or contrasts with the plants around it, either in terms of size or form.

The texture of the leaves of Silver Dust dusty miller (Senecio cineraria), for example, with its deep indentations along the edges, contrasts strikingly with an adjacent plant whose leaves have smoother edges, such as red salvia, also known as "scarlet sage" (Salvia splendens 'Red Hussar'). The former is perceived as having a more delicate texture.

Likewise, visual interest is provided by the juxtaposition of a relatively small-leafed, more delicate plant, such as chrysanthemums (the hardiest will overwinter in planting zone 5), with a plant bearing larger leaves, such as the coarse-looking ornamental kales and flowering cabbages, both of which, in terms of plant taxonomy, are considered to be Brassica oleracea. Chrysanthemums are one of the most popular autumn flowers.

As you will readily see from the above observations, the elements of form and texture have much to contribute to landscape design. But while there is more to landscape design with autumn flowers than just color selection, the element of color does, of course, play a large role. The subject of Page 4 is color schemes to consider when choosing autumn flowers....

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