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September 24. 2012 6:34PM

Purple: A growing favorite in fall's garden color palette


The doorways of the historic Levi Woodbury Homestead in Francestown welcome fall with a profusion of purple. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)

AMHERST -- Autumn brings gardens lush with reds, oranges, yellows and golds to mirror the changing leaves clinging to their glory days before beginning their descent, but in some gardens, fall is a moment to celebrate purple, to add contrast to the autumn hues, or to reject them altogether in favor of something different.

At famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens' estate in Cornish, fall is on the edge of its seat but is kept at bay by a swath of purple that lies between the main house and the “Little Studio.” Asters let loose to grow long and leggy create an impressionist's dream landscape, set against the rolling lawns of the estate.

In Francestown, the doorways to the historic Levi Woodbury Homestead have been festooned with violet, lilac and purple, giving the 18th century home a cottage feel.

“A lot of people want to stay with traditional fall colors,” said Jenny Stuart, manager of Ponemah Farms in Amherst, “but then you have your die-hard purple fans, or people who just want to do something a little bit different.”

Stuart said the quest for purple starts with mums, a fall favorite that becomes more and more diversified each year.

“They're the easiest to plant — you just treat them like your summertime annuals,” she said.

Next come the asters, delicate violet flowers with yellow buttons.

But Stuart said the third annual folks should look for is a springtime favorite: pansies.

“People think of pansies as something you plant in the spring, but they love the cool fall weather and are a great option for adding some color,” Stuart said.

To add texture and contrast, and a bit of whimsy, Anne Sprague of Edgewater Farm in Plainfield said the long, curving flower of the amaranthus, which comes in a variety of purples, is a great annual, as is the celosia with its shorter, almost fur-like clusters of blooms.

“Verbena bonariensis is a great fall purple,” Sprague said.

But to add some texture and interest that will last long after the leaves have fallen, Sprague recommended exploring grasses.

“A lot of grasses are great for fall because they create interest for a long, long time,” she said.

When decorating the landscape or the front steps with purple for fall, Stuart recommended seeking out interesting gourds and opting for the growing options for white pumpkins, which now come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

“The white pumpkins are perfect with purple because they create such a stark contrast,” she said.

Other vegetables, including cabbage, kale, and even ornamental peppers all come in varieties of purple and lend a bit of drama to a unique autumn display.

nfoster@newstote.com


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