Forum Topic of the Week 9/5/04
Posted: Sep-05-2004 at 10:14am
Ask me what my favorite time of year is and without hesitation, I’ll answer “autumn.” There is something in the air, in the quality of light, in the promise of new sweaters and hay rides that I find magical. Even the rain that comes with PNW autumns can’t dampen my love for this season. Poets often allude to autumn as a time of advancing age, usually with gloom, but I prefer to think of it more as a glorious encore in the garden, a festive culmination of all that proceeded than a precursor of death.
I’ve chosen many garden plants, particularly trees and shrubs, to really shine during this time of year. There are also perennials that are for me synonymous with autumn. Here are just a very few of my favorites (so difficult to choose just a few!). I look forward to learning about yours.
Sourwood, Oxydendron arboreum, is a Southeast native jewel whose leaves turn claret red and are a wonderful foil to the ripening seed heads of late summer blooms. The leaves, which color fairly late in the season in my garden, remain brilliantly colored until they drop several weeks later. Place this tree so the sun will shine through the leaves, making them (is it possible?) even more brilliantly colored. It prefers acidic, moist, well-drained soil with companions that don’t need division (it resents root disturbance). In its natural environment, it can reach 60 to 75 feet but I’ve not seen any that have reached this height – even decades old plants – in the PNW; it will more likely grow 25’-40’ tall with narrower width.
Foliage of the Katsura tree, Cercidiphyllum japonica, changes to delicious shades of light honey but the real delight is the scent of the decaying leaves, reminiscent of cotton candy, burnt sugar and butterscotch. Moist, well-drained soil in sun or part shade is best; protect bark of young trees from sun scald. This tree becomes a grand addition to the garden – beautiful in all seasons - and can grow as large as 60’ or more.
The leaves of oak leaf hydrangea ‘Snowqueen’, Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowqueen’, turn burnished reds and purples, wonderfully complimented by the flowers, which fade to a soft paper-bag-brown. Another Southeast coast native, I planted this not too far from my sourwood tree where I can enjoy it from my favorite chair in our family room. This shrub is semi-evergreen in my garden. For more information, visit its entry in Rainy Side's Plant Gallery.
The willow-like leaves of Arkansas bluestar, Amsonia hubrectii become narrow wisps of golden flames in fall. I purchased this plant this summer and if it is anything like its cousin, A. montana, which ages gracefully to soft yellow in my garden, it will provide a lot of beauty with the minimum of care – my favorite kind of perennial. It is said they prefer moist, well-drained soils but I have observed that they will tolerate dry soil conditions with no problems in my garden.
My last for this short list is presented sheepishly since I once vowed I’d never plant anything with yellow flowers. Never say never is the lesson here because I can’t imagine my autumn garden without the golden rays of black-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’. These have been blooming happily for weeks now in a container on my patio, full hot baking sun and minimal water with barely a complaint.
Coming soon – why leaves change color in fall and what makes one turn red and another yellow?
See these and other fall beauties posted in the photo gallery in threads Fall color, part 1 of 3, Fall color, part 2 of 3 and Fall color, part 3 of 3
Posted: Sep-05-2004 at 4:43pm
What a great topic, Lisa! I do miss the colors of Fall on the East Coast--I remember the brilliant colors of the Smokey Mountains of Virginia and Tennesee, and the hills of Vermont and the Hudson Valley of New York with fondness.
I have Rudbeckia "Goldsturm" blooming in my garden right now, with the garishly red annual Salvia around it, creating a riotous combination of color. I didn't plan it that way--but I've decided I like it.
Posted: Sep-05-2004 at 5:15pm
While your at this fun project - how about tossing in a few conifers. Some years the color is nice for dawn redwood, and some cryptomeria.
Miscanthus can get a nice fall color.
Fall is my favorite season too.
Posted: Sep-05-2004 at 5:44pm
I love this last picture, Lisa. I too, love fall(shhh, don't tell my hubby)! I try to plant for color/flowers for all the seasons, but he has a horrid time with the fall/winter. The brillant oranges and reds and yellows just make him more depressed. I have to contain myself when I see the leaves change! After the heat we have had this summer, I am SOOOO looking forward to putting on a sweater! And not having to drag the hose around all over the acre we have! We were going to try to get the irrigation system in this year,,,but, somehow, didn't happen. Oh, and just a quick note, I did have my surgery on my shoulder, was a bit more involved than expected, but I am doing alright. I want to get out and dig/divide, but not gonna happen for a little bit longer. Thanks so much for the new TOTW, and the pictures!
Posted: Sep-05-2004 at 7:13pm
Barb, I grew up in the Midwest where my memories are of cool, crisp, clear fall days - what I think of as "football weather." I don't miss much about Midwest weather but I do miss the falls there.
MD, I was refraining from mentioning too many conifers at the moment because I wanted to save them for a winter color TOTW. But yes, dawn redwood and larch, as deciduous conifers, offer great color in the fall landscape.
Posted: Sep-06-2004 at 12:33pm
You don't have to go back east to see the fall color difference. Their is a great color change South of Lisa and MD in the drive to Eugene. They have trees down there that we do not see in Western WA.
Our younger daughter spent two years at UO while she was still a college soccer player. Her first fall she had a class on the 4th floor of a building across a street from the 'park' area on the westside of the campus. I remember her telling me that she had a hard time with that class because she wanted to look out the window all the time.
Posted: Sep-07-2004 at 9:08am
Good to hear your shoulder is doing better, Kathi.
Fall is my favorite season too! I love the colors, the clear blue sky and crisp mornings. There's something about the more mellow temperatures and the smell in the air.
My hydrangeas are turning a beautiful dark red, maroon color, the nandina a beautiful clear red, orange and yellow and the colchium autumnale a gorgeous lavender/pink color. Yep, fall is definitely here!
Posted: Sep-07-2004 at 1:18pm
The 'Rose Glow' is absolutely scrumptious. Added to my want list. Beautiful ! Nice to see that the mock orange has such gorgeous color, too. It's already on my 'smell good' want list. Beautiful Images.
Kathi- sorry to hear about your shoulder. Good thing if they got you all fixed up ! I seem to have developed some arthritus in mine. LOL. Dang old age! It's a bummer.
I love hydrangea's too Jeanne. No change of color here yet though. Kind of odd. But then maybe it's the gorge winds or something. Or who knows what factor. LOL. But they are gorgeous!
Posted: Sep-07-2004 at 1:41pm
Great post Lisa. I am looking to add more fall color to my landscape. The large reg? maples at the top of our front yard and viney maples here and there- of course are all gorgeous in the fall. Wisteria and staghorn trees- I esp. like with their fall colors, too. My little redtwig dogwood is nice, too. Great time of year!!!
Posted: Sep-07-2004 at 1:59pm
Good to know, Gary. Sounds like I need to do a road trip.
As Allen Lacy stated in the first chapter of his book, The Garden in Autumn, autumn is the neglected season; spring and summer get all the gardening glory. He says this it is a false notion to believe that all that remains for fall are the 'mums. He supports his claim by offering many choices for seasonal interest, including perennials, both lingerers and those just for the season, annuals, grasses and woody plants.
So far, his is the only book completely dedicated to the autumn garden that I own. I glean information from 3 other books: The Border in Bloom and The Year in Bloom by Ann Lovejoy have chapters that highlight the magic of this time of year; and Reader's Digest A Garden for all Seasons, which have chapters devoted to this season. Other info comes hit or miss, depending on the book and its focus.
After checking on other possibilities for gardening books on this subject at Amazon.com, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are others to consider: Autumn Gardens by Ethne Clarke and Jonathon Buckley, Gardening Workbook: Autumn in the Garden by Stephen Bradley and Anne Hyde, My Garden in Autumn and Winter by Edward A Bowles, The Autumn Garden: A Seasonal Guide to Making the Most of Your Garden by Richard Rosenthal.
Does anyone own any of the above? What do you think of them? The only book reviewed at Amazon is the one I own.
Ann Lovejoy's The Year in Bloom and My Garden in Autumn and Winter by Edward A Bowles can be found on Rainy Side's book shelf for Winter Gardening.
Posted: Sep-07-2004 at 3:36pm
I LOVE AUTUMN! It has all my favorite colors. I'm not quite ready to say good by to summer yet, though. While a good portion of my garden looks a bit raggedy at this point there are a few stars: Miscanthus sinensis (Maiden Grass) looks great with seed heads, some blooming heathers, asters and don't forget PUMPKINS!
Posted: Sep-07-2004 at 6:47pm
Sydnie, there are many natives that color nicely in fall, not just the mockorange, Syringa lewisii, red flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum (see my pics on Photo Gallery) and vine maples, Acer circinatum. It seems our region is heavier on yellow fall color but a few, such as vine maples, will change to shades of oranges and reds. False Solomon's seal, Smilacena racemosa, star-flowered Solomon's seal, S. stellata, Indian-plum, Oemlaria cerasiformis, Western meadowrue, Thalictrum occidentale, red-twig dogwood, Cornus sericea, and Western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale are a few natives that come readily to mind.
Posted: Sep-07-2004 at 9:15pm
I have EA Bowles book. It is an older book that was recently revised. Although he talks from an England garden perspective, a lot translates to our neck of the woods.
The best time to choose for fall color is now. Make trips to the nurseries and choose your fall color tree or shrub when its in its fall color. Some will be more brilliant than others.
Great topic Lisa. One of my favorite times of year.
Posted: Sep-08-2004 at 9:15am
Good point, Debbie. I have found out that a few of my plants known for fall color, such as Chinese pistachio, Pistache chinensis can be variable and should be chosen in fall for best color selection. Wish I'd known that *before* I bought mine, which so far been a fall color disappointment. Lesson learned for next time, I guess.
Thanks for feedback on the book.
Posted: Sep-09-2004 at 12:44pm
During fall a great way to see fall color in the mountains is to take the North Cascades Hwy and loop around and come back Stevens Pass. When the vine maples are in their full autumn glory it is breathtaking!
I wonder how good the color will be since we had such a drought this year?
Posted: Sep-09-2004 at 1:48pm
I wonder the same thing, Debbie. Some of the big leaf maples coming back from the coast looked kind of crispy. Another great fall color trip is to go HWY 20 from Eugene/Springfield through the Cascades to Belknap Crater. The vine maples are gorgeous. The weather forcast does call for cooler fall weather. Wonder if that means the cold, clear weather instead of the rainy stuff. Doesn't look like at this point.
Posted: Sep-10-2004 at 8:59am
I've been trying to remember the weather details of a few years ago when the big leaf maples had gorgeous color - the best they'd had in some years. For some reason, I think we had a dry summer/dry fall combo. I don't remember if we had lots of hot weather in conjunction though.
It can be a guessing game, at times, trying to figure out why a plant fails to color well, when all other things are taken into account. For instance, I'm still trying to figure out why my paperbark maple, Acer griseum, doesn't color as wonderfully as it did its first fall. I think it might have something to do with my neighbor's lawn practices. Their lawn is uphill from my tree; they moved in a year after we did. It's a hypothesis but I've no idea how to determine if it's true or not. Regardless, my tree doesn't color well; at least its bark is stunning year-round.
Posted: Sep-10-2004 at 1:00pm
Here's an interesting link for explaining the process of Autum Color. I know that my aspens like cold,dry and clear weather to color properly. Two years ago, they were an absolutely stunning golden yellow color. We had a cold, dry October. Looks like not just photoperiodism but possibly cloud cover may be responsible for lack of color in my aspens. Most years it's too damp and the leaves turn black. But the aspens look beautiful in summer and the leaves make nice noises when the wind blows through them.
Posted: Sep-11-2004 at 12:16pm
Well, I felt like a grouch when I was first thinking about making this post--afterall, here are a bunch of people who are rejoicing in the great color in their Fall gardens. But, my plants NEVER color well. I think that my microclimate may be too protected.
Oak leaf hydrangea makes my list of the worst looking plants in my Fall/winter garden because it stays mostly evergreen although the leaves become increasing more bedraggled throughout the Winter. I have to pull off the nasty looking leaves if I want any piece of mind. No lovely burgandy colors.
I also bought a Euonymus alata because I crave the coral-pink Fall color, but it only colors up about half way (and then much later in the season than other bushes I see around town). And my vine maples stay lush and green looking until the leaves eventually fall off.
However, I still have my fingers crossed for interesting Fall color--this year, I am about to add an Itea "Henry's Garnet" to the mix and I'm still counting on reeling one garden to add a Katsura tree. Oddly, the plants that are just supposed to turn yellow (like clethra and deciduous azalea) do yellow but IMO the effect doesn't look so good or so intentional unless the yellows are surrounded by reds, purples, corals etc.
Aaarrgh....thanks, all, for letting me vent about it.
Posted: Sep-11-2004 at 8:30pm
Emily, your yard is like mine. Brown and yellow is about what I get, too. Blaaaah. The Japanese maple tree is a sort of red leaf all summer, so it doesn't really change--the leaves just stay a strange shade of greenish maroon and fall off. The apple tree leaves turn yellow. The forsythia--I think they turn yellow, too. The silk tree--yellow. The star magnolia--I don't remember, so it's obviously nothing to rave about. I need to add something that looks vibrant in the autumn.
Posted: Sep-12-2004 at 11:47am
Cool link, Jeanne! You saved me from my "homework." Procrastination does sometimes work. LOL
Sorry to hear, Emily, that you have a hard time getting fall color in your garden. This was something I noticed when I lived in South Florida, too. But since you aren't that tropical, perhaps researching plants that color well in slightly warmer-than-us climates (San Franscisco?) would be beneficial to you.
I also wonder if sunlight (or lack of) and moisture (or lack of) might play a part in your lack of fall color. You have quite a lot of shade, acidic soil and thirsty tree roots, IIRC. Perhaps this impacts fall color. IME, oak leaf hydrangea is one that will tolerate quite a bit of sun and too much shade might affects its fall color. Plants that like it moist might also not color as well if they are drought-stressed. This is complete assumption on my part and would require further research to see if it proves true or not. Something to think about anyway.
Posted: Sep-13-2004 at 8:06am
I can totally sympathize, Emily and Barb! Many plants that are supposed to have purple or black leaves become kind of a green/black in my garden. My Bishop of Landaff Dahlia has green leaves and never gets that deep purple/black color. The flowers are a beautiful red color so I guess it's not so bad. I have found that the huechera "Purple Place", the barberry and the Wyoming Cannas are the only plants that hold the purple color. I bought my two hydrangeas for the fall color of their leaves but they never turn the beautiful purple color they were advertised at!
Posted: Sep-13-2004 at 8:59am
OK, so I feel a bit better about grouching. Unfortunately though, it sounds like I have company in the "failing to color" catagory.
Jeanne, I have the same troubles with the purple plants greening out. I've had luck with "Plum Pudding" heuchera (Deb's suggestion) but not so much with other plants. My barberries (gone now due to failure to thrive) were always a dark green. Shade can be a bummer--the yellow/chartreuse plants often don't get enought sun to really bring out the color either. What a lot of hideous, muddy color combos you can create with yellowish greens and green-y dusky colors.
Lisa, you remember correctly. I try to water adequately, so the soil is generally average to moist. Maybe I should try to stretch the envelope a bit with the warmer-clime plants but, since I hate murdering plants, I usually try to stay with zone 7 or colder.
Posted: Sep-13-2004 at 10:43am
I will point you to some fall beauties in Rainy Side's Plant Gallery for shrubs and trees.
Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku'
Arbutus unedo 'Compacta'
Cornus kousa 'Big Apple'. I have 'Moonbeam' variety of Korean dogwood, which looks decorated for Christmas with its bright red fruit dangling from the branches. Soon, it will wear its purple fall color.
Calluna vulgaris 'Mrs. Ronald Gray' and
Calluna vulgaris 'Red Fred' are 2 fall-blooming heathers.
Enkianthus campanulatus 'Hiraethlyn'
Rosa glauca. Mine is displaying her amazing hips right now, clearly visible from my seat at the kitchen table. Lovely!
Posted: Sep-13-2004 at 11:07am
I planted Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' and a red-flowering Cornus kousa `Satomi' earlier this year. It's been tough keeping them watered-in during the drought, but I love the seasonal interest.
I have a C.k. `Moonbeam' from you that is growing well, but it's still a sprig compared to my big kousa dogwood. That one is loaded with "raspberries" right now. Since it's next to my driveway, people stop and ask what they are.
Posted: Sep-14-2004 at 9:42am
I was getting ready to post links to fall interest perennials and stumbled over an article that Debbie wrote, called Planning a Colorful Autumn Garden. Yippee, this will also help pick up my slack. (When did you write this, Debbie?)
Check out these perennials from Rainy Side's Plant Gallery:
Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert' is a lovely perennial but, IME, is well-deserved of its thuggy reputation. Debbie's admonition to "plant where it will not run over other more delicate plants." is right on. I wish I had known this before planting it. Word of warning, it can not be dug out; any bit of root left behind will regrow. Plant wisely and enjoy its long fall bloom. Oh, yeah, rumor has it that the pink forms are less aggressive. Has anyone found this to be true?
Asters are synonomous with autumn, it seems. Check out these few I've selected from the Plant Gallery. Aster frikartii 'Mönch', Aster lateriflorus, Aster novi-belgii 'Samoa'. I have Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black' in my garden; it is amazing in bloom with its mass of delicate candy pink flowers.
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides syn. Plumbago larpentiae is a great groundcover with blue flowers and red fall color appearing at the same time.
Echinacea purpurea is a long-blooming perennial that continues into fall in my garden.
Kirengeshoma palmata Koreana Group used to be a hard-to-find perennial, especially when I first learned about it some years ago, but it is becoming increasingly easier to find. Its lovely yellow wax bells are a welcome addition to a woodland garden.
Don't overlook the fall-blooming sedums, including Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Sedum 'Frosty Morn', Sedum 'Matrona' and Sedum 'Vera Jameson' for easy-care color.
For a shot of gold, include Solidago canadensis in the border.
Symphyandra pendula is a new-to-me plant for this season.
This is only a small sampling of perennials that will provide color at this time of year. Please share what brightens your garden.
Posted: Sep-14-2004 at 11:42am
I wrote that series of articles about 3-4 autumns ago, AFAIR.
The grasses really shine right now. I have Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' that will soon be coming into burgundy bloom right now. The pics were taken November 2, so you can see how beautiful this grass is in fall. BTW I have the Anemone planted next to it and it doesn't bother the grass even though it is dancing all around it.
My favorite aster in late fall is Aster 'Our Latest One', and it truly lives up to its name as being a late aster. This photo was taken the first week in November and although it is beginning to fade it still is providing color.
Posted: Sep-15-2004 at 6:12am
The Asters are good Fall plants--I'm enjoying A. movae-angliae "September Ruby", and the native Aster (A. douglasii? The person who gave it to me wasn't sure). Sedum "Neon" and "Vera Jameson" are lovely, and I found another that is interesting--"Bertram Johnson?" (Having a senior moment, here--my mind's gone blank at the name). It has very black foliage, skinny stems, small leaves, brilliant fuchsia blossoms that make a terrific contrast to the black stems and leaves. I also have a native Arnica that is blooming right now, small, blue, daisy-like flowers.
Posted: Sep-16-2004 at 8:48am
Courtesy of The Oregonian's Homes and Gardens of the Northwest, here are suggestions of fall color to see in Hoyt Arboretum: Get Lost in Transition. If you're in Portland or can make a trip here, it is worthwhile to see not only the color but how these trees look "all grown up".
You can pick up a map in the Visitor's Center at Hoyt Arboretum or download a Trails of Hoyt Arboretum map.
Posted: Sep-18-2004 at 1:55pm
I love the Hoyt Arboretum I used to go there back in the early 70s, although I didn't realize it was an arboretum then.