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The ro­bust shades of au­tumn—golds, gar­nets, am­bers, and amethysts— shim­mer through this Illi­nois gar­den as the days grow shorter and cooler.

Rich as a pi­rate’s trea­sure ch­est and plush as a Per­sian car­pet,

Barb and Sid Overbey’s Illi­nois gar­den is at its most sump­tu­ous in fall: gold and scar­let and am­ber, with flick­ers of blue and pur­ple and green.

What makes this au­tumn op­u­lence pos­si­ble? Plan­ning. “I’m al­ways think­ing about every sea­son,” Barb says. “What will step up when some­thing else isn’t so in­ter­est­ing? What will the fo­liage be like when this plant is done bloom­ing? When will the berries be ready for the birds?”

To or­ga­nize the stun­ning sea­sonal per­for­mance, Barb started with a wide va­ri­ety of conifers in dif­fer­ent forms and sizes planted through­out the gar­den. Ev­er­greens com­prise the rhythm sec­tion, pro­vid­ing steady green color while shel­ter­ing birds all year. Some blue-green ev­er­greens add a color that Barb con­sid­ers cru­cial: blue, to set off the gold that pre­dom­i­nates in au­tumn. “I’m al­ways look­ing to bal­ance my blues, my reds, my greens and yel­lows,” she says.

Within a frame­work of trees, she added shrubs that boast dra­matic fall leaf color, in­ter­est­ing win­ter bark, berries for the birds, bright spring blooms, or all of the above. Tall trees, mid­size shrubs, and lower peren­ni­als are ar­ranged in lay­ers that establish a hand­some struc­ture as sea­sons change. Com­bi­na­tions of col­ors, forms, and tex­tures that con­trast and com­ple­ment each other make the land­scape in­ter­est­ing year-round.

While col­or­ful leaves play a lead­ing role in her au­tumn gar­den, flow­ers play a strong sup­port­ing role. Barb plants

chrysan­the­mums of vary­ing hues in beds and in con­tain­ers among the shrubs and grasses. The monks­hood con­tin­ues to bloom into fall, adding spires of blue to con­trast with the warmer col­ors. Asters are an­other main­stay. “They bloom in late sum­mer and fall,” she says, “and they give me that blue.” An en­thu­si­ast for na­tive plants, she likes to use North Amer­i­can species such as the rich pur­ple New Eng­land aster, sky blue aster and pale blue Short’s aster, and fluffy white heath aster. Still, these are tall, some­times-sprawl­ing plants. Barb has places for them—her gar­dens are part of a 9-acre prop­erty—but in tighter spots, such as at the front of a bed, she’ll use a more com­pact cul­ti­var such as ‘Pur­ple Dome’.

As au­tumn shifts to­ward win­ter, the deep green of ev­er­greens, the cop­per in the bark of a weep­ing river birch, and the red and yel­low in dog­wood stems will step for­ward to add color to Barb’s gar­den. “The fo­cus will change,” Barb says, but in every bed, “there’s al­ways some­thing that’s eye-pop­ping.”

‘Pump­kin Igloo’ chrysan­the­mum (Den­dran­thema hy­brid) ‘Royal Pur­ple’ smoke­tree (Cot­i­nus cog­gy­gria ‘Royal Pur­ple’)




What Barb calls “Pine Is­land”—an is­land bed in the drive­way, an­chored by an East­ern white pine(Pi­nus strobus)—haslay­ers of au­tumn color, mainly cre­ated with trees and shrubs. A weep­ing river birch (Be­tula ni­gra‘Sum­mer Cas­cade’) is the big star. In the front row are bar­ber­ries (Ber­beris thun­bergii ‘Rose Glow’), a threadleaf dwarf false cy­press (Chamae­cy­paris pisifera ‘Golden Mop’), and asters in ma­genta and li­lac. Be­hind them, along with a me­tal cat bird­bath from In­done­sia, is Fo­er­ster’s feather reed­grass (Cala­m­a­grostis × acu­ti­flora ‘Karl Fo­er­ster’). The cat­mint in the fore­ground (Nepeta ×faassenii) is mostly done bloom­ing in au­tumn, but its green leaves keep go­ing un­til frost. Pur­ple chrysan­the­mum (Den­dran­thema hy­brid)

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