Fall Planting Ideas From Maryland’s Brookside Gardens


Brookside Gardens is a gem of a garden tucked away amidst the sprawling neighborhoods of Maryland’s Montgomery County. Covering nearly 50 acres, it features rolling hills, sculpted ponds, woodlands and formal gardens filled with hundreds of varieties of plants. It’s my go-to destination when I’m looking for new ideas for plants and plant combinations.

The great thing about the gardens is that there’s always so much to discover. There are forests filled with native trees and shade-loving shrubs and perennials. There are specialty gardens that showcase many varieties of just one plant. There’s a fragrance garden, a winter garden, a rain garden and a terraced formal garden. And there’s even a secluded Japanese garden perched high on a hill with its very own wooden pagoda.


All in all, there’s enough plant life to keep a visitor occupied for hours.


An example of great bark, Platanus occidentalis (Sycamore)

And, now that summer has ended, the gardens have shifted once again to reflect the change in the seasons. This fall, the talented staff at Brookside Gardens has packed the gardens with plants and plant combinations that literally shine under the September and October sun. That means there is plenty of vivid color to match fall’s signature hues: bright reds, magentas, oranges, deep yellows and purple. Following are some standouts.




This hot-colored border, composed of Salvia ‘Sparkler Red’ and red canna lilies isn’t for everyone, but it sure makes a statement outside of the Visitor’s Center. The large, paddle-shaped leaves of the canna created an interesting wave effect within the salvia, while purple-leaved annuals ground the entire composition.


The leaves of these vivid purple flowers, called Colchicums, emerge in early spring and die back by early summer. The crocus-like flowers appear in late summer or early fall.


The arching flowers of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ provide a beautiful contrast with the rounded forms of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’


Alongside a woodland path, the bright green leafless stems and brilliant red flowers of the Spider-lily, Lycoris radiata, glint in the sun while playing with the shadows.


While in the sun border, the rosy-pink pompoms of Globe-amaranth, Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ set up contrasts with mounds of Zinnia elegans ‘Giant Cactus Mix.’


These bright pink zinnias shine against the giant green leaves of a banana tree.


In this corner of one of the formal gardens, the lavender blooms of Lespedeza bicolor ‘Yakushima’ are combined with the soft pink flowers of Maiden Grass, dusty-red Sedums, violet Obedient Plant and star-shaped blue Bellflowers.


This wonderful fall-blooming Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’ looks great atop a bed of withered leaves.



While in the Rose Garden, the bright green swords of yucca set up a nice contrast with the delicate grey-blue spires of Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia.


Less colorful, but just as beautiful is this subtle composition of Ostrich ferns, Hellebores, Hostas and Torenia fournieri, ‘Catalina Grape-o-licious.’


The gardens are open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and are free to the public. For more information on Brookside Gardens and upcoming events on the grounds, click here for the website.