African Garden + time

Squirrelhaven in the Fall

Front mini-prairie currently

View of the woodland garden in mid-October, 2008

Today is the beginning of astronomical autumn, so I figured this is a good time for an autumn preview. If it weren't for the diminishing daylight, autumn would be my favorite season. While spring is the season when the woodland garden is filled with bloom, and summer brings the full color and flowering to the front mini prairie, autumn is the time when the whole of Squirrelhaven sings. I'm very demanding of most of my plants, I want them to have beautiful foliage or blooms in spring and summer, but then I insist they also have autumnal interest. (To get the full effect of Squirrelhaven in the fall, I've had to mix in some photos from last October and November, when the color is at its peak. It doesn't all color up at the same time. To see more from last year, use google.) Generally, I've banned any woody plant that doesn't have some fall color. I don't grow the Tree Peony for its autumnal tints, but they add to its appeal. (Herbaceous peonies also have attractive fall foliage.)

(photo from 2008)The reason I don't rip out my Forsythia is that it regularly turns this deep purple, from 2008.

Remontant blooms are a bonus. As if the dark summer foliage of Physocarpus opulifolius 'Monlo' (Diabolo) wasn't attractive enough, it ends up like this before the leaves fall. (photo from 2008)

All the Dogwoods (here Cornus x rutgersensis 'Rutban' (Aurora)) have striking fall color.

While most turn red, Cornus alternifolia turns several colors at once (see here).I don't seem to have a good photo of Cotinus 'Ancot' (Golden Spirit) in full color. Here it is now starting to exhibit yellow, orange and red tones.

Cotinus 'Nordine' turns orange and purple in the fall.Below, behind the orange foliage of Porteranthus trifoliatus (Gillenia trifoliata/Bowman's Root) which is not a woody plant, Chionanthus virginicus turns a clear yellow.

As this photo from 2008 demonstrates, fall color isn't limited to trees and shrubs.

Herbaceous plants that flowered in spring, and sank into the background during summer, return for a brief swan song of color, such as Uvularia perfoliata (Little Merrybells),

Polyganatum biflorum (Solomon's Seal),

Geranium maculatum,

and the Tiarellas, Heucheras, and Heucherellas. (photo from November 2008)

Other plants look refreshed and renewed by the cooler weather, such as Brunnera 'Hadspen Cream'

with the yellow autumnal foliage of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).
There are the plants that bloomed in the summer, but provide continuing interest with their changing foliage, such as the Hostas (in October 2008)

and Echinacea purpurea (late October 2008).

Then there are the plants with special autumn beauty, such as Maianthemum racemosum (Smilacina racemosa) for its berries,

Polyganatum commutatum also for its berries,

Heptacodium miconiodes for its bracts,

and the seedheads of Clematis.

Grasses are some of the best plants for autumn interest. Squirrelhaven lacks any tall grasses (I'm going to remedy that), but the shorter grasses are also beautiful. Here's Praire Dropseed (Sporabolus heterolepsis),

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) (2008),

and its cultivar 'Carousel,'

at their peak for their foliage color and seed heads.
Finally, there are the blooms of autumn. In addition to the standard Sedums,

Asters,

Goldenrods,

and Mum (November 2008),

there are plants that bloom while their foliage exhibits autumnal tints: Ceratostigma plumbaginoides,

this mystery Aster

and Actaea 'James Compton.' (photo October 2008)

Then there are the less popular, but equally worthy late bloomers. The towering, conquering, overwhelming Japanese Anemone 'Andrea Atkinson' is impossible to ignore.

Unaware of her expansionist tendencies, I planted three of these in the woodland garden. I have tried to remove one, but it keeps coming back. I'm probably going to regret my planting of divisions of it along the fence, but it's hard to begrudge a plant that starts blooming in August and continues through October, all the while towering over my head. This is the plant that is the exception to my rule against white flowers.
More subtle, but no less attractive are the Toadlilies, such as Tricyrtis 'Tojen.'

The flowers are like tiny orchids, which start opening in August and continue until hard frost.
One of the last plants to bloom here at Squirrelhaven is the striking and deadly Monkshood, as seen here last October.

This is Aconitum carmichaelii, the latest of the Monkshoods. I think it needs a bit more sun to stand up straight, but there's nothing to compare with its bluish purple blooms in September and October.

I must not forget to mention the annuals that are enjoying the cooler weather and pairing up with the Asters: Osteospermum 'Lemon Symphony,'

and Cosmos which just started blooming a week ago.

The end of summer doesn't have to mean the end of garden beauty. To find more fall garden inspiration, check out Gardening Gone Wild's Design Workshop for September.
(edit. 9/25/09)

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Squirrelhaven in the Fall + time