Fabulous fall perennials and shrubs

American Cranberry Bush
While the calendar says it's not technically fall yet, you can certainly feel it in the air these days. Some of the leaves on trees and shrubs are starting to turn color and there's certainly a little nip in the air each morning.

Black-eyed Susan
Even though I have mixed emotions about the impending frosts we'll be getting soon, which will signal the end of gardening season, there are many flowers blooming away this time of year that look terrific late in the season. And there are some shrubs that look downright pretty, too. Here are my favorites: (and be sure to click on each of them for a better view)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and several of its family members are still blooming their hearts out. I've done a minimal amount of deadheading, yet they still look super. They love lots of sunshine and fairly regular watering. Most plants grow about 2 feet high although can reach 3 feet if they're particularly happy. Some are hardy down to zone 3, which is impressive, but many will survive zone 5 and 6 winters.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Stonecrop 'Autumn Joy' (Sedum) is high on my list because the bees just love it. The large flower heads are light pink and the leaves are an interesting pale green. They will grow in part to full sun and reach 18 to 24 inches in height. They are hardy down to zone 4. I have other stonecrops in my garden that also do well, such as 'Matrona'. This spring, I planted a newer variety called 'Dazzleberry' and it has performed well so far.

Phlox 'Shockwave'
Many varieties of Phlox (P. paniculata) are also late-bloomers. I have some large clumps of 'David' which are pure white and they are blooming like crazy right now. I just discovered a newer variety I'm growing, 'Shockwave', is blooming. I'm not sure if that's the norm for it because the deer nipped off all the buds on it earlier in the summer (grrr) but I love the lavender flowers and variegated leaves. 'David' is hardy down to zone 3 and grows anywhere from 2 to 4 feet tall. 'Shockwave' is hardy to zone 4 and is just 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall.

Hummingbird mint
I love the sunset colors of the flowers on Hummingbird mint (Agastache rupestris) that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, although it appears our hummers have already headed south for the winter. It's hardy and drought tolerant once established. They usually reach up to 2 1/2 feet tall.

Aster 'Monch'
The 'September Charm' Anemones (Anemone x hybrida) have been blooming profusely for a month now. They have perky purplish-pink flowers. My only complaint is that they will spread out when you're not looking so keep an eye on these guys! Hardy to zone 4, they'll grow in full sun to part shade and reach up to 4 feet tall.

Fall-blooming Asters are quite delightful, too. They bloom reliably when just about everything else has shut down for the season. 'Monch' (A. frikartii) is a popular variety that has lavender blooms and grows great in full sun to part shade. The plants are usually 2 to 3 feet tall and hardy to zone 5.

Hydrangea paniculata
Hydrangeas are quite lovely this time of year because their flowers tend to go from creamy-white to dusty pink or pale green. I have a panicle hydrangea (H. paniculata) called 'Vanilla Strawberry' that is now pink and blooms prolifically. These hydrangeas tend to be quite hardy, usually down to zone 3. Another wonderful hydrangea is the Oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia), with attractive leaves, which is hardy to zone 5. They each prefer to be watered regularly. Panicle hydrangeas grow 8 to 10 feet or more while Oakleaf hydrangeas grow 6 to 8 feet tall.

Even though our American Cranberry Bush (Viburnum trilobum) isn't blooming right now, it certainly earns its keep due to all of the vibrant, red berries. (see photo at top of post) Earlier in the season, the bushes had beautiful white lace-cap style blossoms. The berries will persist into winter at which time they'll be consumed by appreciative overwintering birds. Viburnums tend to be very hardy, with this species being particularly tough -- all the way down to zone 2. Wow. They grow in full sun to part shade and appreciate regular watering.

I suppose it's a no-brainer to include Burning Bush (Euonymous alatus) but I do love its crimson-red foliage this time of year. There are dwarf varieties such as 'Compacta' available in case you don't have much room, although even those can grow up to 9 feet tall. They're hardy down to zone 4 and will grow in full sun to part shade.