Come Home to a Colorful Autumn Front

Take a morning to color up your entry.
Ellen Ruoff Riley / Photography William Dickey

Celebrate the shifting seasons by transforming your front entry into a colorful fall welcome. Flowers abound this time of year, and they're not expensive. The reward? "It's so nice to come home to a great-looking house. The garden is simple but adds so much to the warmth," says Nashville homeowner Owen Kling.

If you think Owen's garden looks like heavy-duty work, reconsider. With a little guidance, you can go from planning to planting in only a morning.


Shop for Color
  • Pick several flower selections, and purchase at least three of each; resist buying one of everything you love.
  • Plants in 6-inch containers or larger give you the most for your money.
  • Choose plants with loads of buds. Avoid pots in full bloom--they have already put on their show.
  • Purchase tall selections for the back of the bed, some medium-height ones for the middle, and short ones for the front.
  • Showy foliage delivers texture and color. Add ornamental grass and coleus to the mix for colorful zing.


3 Easy Tricks to a Lush Border
Set it up: Before you think about picking up a shovel, arrange your plants. Place tall ones in the back, and stairstep the others, so the shortest selections end up at the front edge. Group each kind of flower together to maximize its color impact.

Elevate: Put back row plants in tall containers. This provides additional height and increases their visibility.

Plant the rest: Loosen the soil, and mix in soil conditioner (available in large bags at garden centers) to improve drainage. Remove plants from their pots, undo tight roots, and place them in the ground in the order you had them arranged. Spread a 1-inch layer of shredded pine bark mulch over the soil, and water well.

Flower Guide
Owen's garden combines annuals and perennials. Annuals last for only one growing season and bloom continuously. With fall's first frost, they die. Perennials return every year but have a shorter bloom time. In a small border, enjoy all the flowers for the season. After frost, compost the annuals, and move the perennials to a permanent location (or give them away). Start fresh with new plants for winter.

  • 'English Countryside' aster -  Its violet-blue color ties all others together. After this late-blooming perennial quits, move it to another location to come back.
  • Nippon daisies and 'Cosmic Yellow' cosmos  - Perennial Nippon daisies bloom into fall. Annual cosmos blooms nonstop through the growing season.
  • 'Safari Red' marigolds - This annual becomes available in late summer, and its color palette is perfect for a fall border.
  • Sunflowers -  This annual lasts for only a few weeks, but it's a great addition if you just want some short-term fun.

"Instant Garden" is from the September 2006 issue of Southern Living.