Color touches and excites us. Of all the reasons for cultivating a garden, enjoying beautiful color throughout the year inspires me more than most.
Color ebbs and flows in waves through the seasons, with beautiful oranges, reds and golds reaching an autumn crescendo some time in October, most years, with colors steadily fading to browns and greys in November .
Cooler weather brings us renewed, intense color in late season flowers and bright autumn leaves. Autumn’s flowers celebrate gentler, wetter weather with a vibrancy they’ve not shown since spring.
We noticed the first changing leaves in late August. Maples and sycamores began to turn in late summer, followed in September by the first hits of red on the dogwoods. Holly berries began to fade from green to orange in early October, and still aren’t fully red.
Our long, warm autumn has held off the usual brilliant autumn foliage of hardwood trees deep into the season, and many trees have dropped their leaves already, lost to wind and drought. Those that have hung onto their branches long enough to shine, brilliant for a while before falling, are enjoyed all the more this year.
Goldenrod fills our upper garden beds. A Virginia native, its golden yellow flowers feed the late pollinators and offer a last wash of soft color among stands of brown seedheads and withering perennials. Our garden remains alive with every sort of little bee, a few Sulphur butterflies and a late Monarch or two.
We came home after dark this week to the rare and magical sight of a lone hummingbird feeding on the ginger lilies. A hummingbird glows in the wash of headlights, reflecting a bright pin-point of light from its little eye and sparkling in its movement from flower to flower. One might mistake it for a little fairy moving among the flowers after dusk.
We had thought the hummingbirds had already flown south, and sat for a long time at the top of the drive just watching its progress from flower to flower.
And so we celebrate the colors of the season, even as the garden fades for another year. This week I’ve dug Caladiums and replaced them with spring flowering bulbs, Violas, snaps and sprouting Arum lily tubers.
I’m taking up our collection of Alocasias and Colocasias, re-potting them and bringing them inside before our colder nights bite them, too. We now have low temperatures in the 30s predicted for the next few nights, and they won’t like that. It’s time to bring in the Begonias, as well, and I’m not looking forward to all the heavy lifting this day will require.
From an afternoon high near 80F on Thursday, we’re suddenly expecting winter-time temperatures at night. Change is in the air this week.
But even as we turn back our clocks this weekend, so we dial back the garden, too. Winter is a simpler, starker season, but still beautiful. And as leaves fall and perennials die back, the Camellias shine. Every sort of berry brightens to tempt the hungry birds, and we notice the color and texture of all of the different barks on our woodies.
A little planning and thoughtful planting now will insure color in the garden through until spring. A gardener always has something to enjoy, and something interesting to do while enjoying the beauty surrounding us.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019
Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator
‘Yuletide’ Camellia sasanqua looks very different from how I know it. For a while, it was our most popular cultivar. (Pinks were collectively more popular, but their popularity was shared among several cultivars. ‘Yuletide’ was the standard red.) It blooms rich red with yellow staminate centers. Yours seems to be more pinkish red in this picture, which is of course appropriate for your relaxed garden. I happen to like the red, but it can be a bit intense. (Although ‘Yuletide’ was probably my favorite cultivar to grow, I would not likely put it in my own garden . . . unless of course, it bloomed like yours.) Those that are too exposed, and bloom with enhanced stainate centers, remind me of the yellow and red of McDonald’s (which is a visual you probably didn’t need). Anyway, your garden always looks so cozy, like something intended to blend out into the forest. We try to do that here, but I am not very good with cozy or woodsy landscapes. It is very different from the refinement of overly efficient fruit and vegetable production.
I MUST get me some of that beautyberry! I have sources. I just need to find the justification! I want two; the wild sort that is native Georgia or so (There are actually sources for the wild sort.) and one with white berries from Japan. I prefer the North American species, but I really like white.
I should also get some of that butterfly ginger. There is quite a bit of it down south, and it sometimes gets removed from job sites and canned for other sites. I just never bother to bring any back with me.
Tony, if you’ll send me a mailing address (firstname.lastname@example.org) I will send you some butterfly ginger in the spring. I had some visitors at the Botanical Garden last month who were crazy for our native beautyberry and were asking where they could buy some. I was re-working pots that day, and found a beautyberry seedling growing up in one of the pots. I removed it, potted it for them, and gave it to them. They were so happy! They live a bit further north from here but still along the coast, and I know it will be hardy for them. I dig up beautyberry seedlings in my home garden and generally toss them. From here on, I should take a moment to pot them and put them in our sale area at the Botanical. I would be happy to mail you one next time I have one to share. I just love the beautyberry growing with the Yucca. That was unintended, but I’m so pleased with the association now that the shrub is old enough to produce berries. I admire the white berried shrub, too, but will take a pass on that one. Beautyberry reproduces too much for my taste and shades out other plants. But do have a look at the article in Fine Gardening. They have some delicious ones with beautiful foliage that I’ve never come across in a nursery.
Thank you SO much for the offer! However, there is quite a bit of butterfly ginger in some of the landscapes down south. It often gets dug and canned to be recycled into other landscapes. I intend to eventually bring some here. I just have not done so yet. I want to get a good spot for it first. It seems that all the good spots get something else in the first. I will send my address anyway, just in case you happen to find a beautyberry seedling. There would be not need to pot it. You could just wrap it in damp paper in a zip-lock bag. It would be easy to mail that way. If you don’t find one, don’t worry about it. There are sources for those, but like the ginger. I just have not procured any yet. Than you SO much.
You’re welcome- I replied to your email before finding this note. I’ll keep an eye out for a good little beautyberry for you.
Is beautyberry native there, or just naturalized? I think of it as limited to the Southeast, from Texas to Virginia. If naturalized, is if the common American beautyberry (or a seedlings from a garden variety of it). I have been intrigued by it for a while, but could not think of a justification to grow it. I thought that if I like it enough, I would eventually get a cultivar of a Japanese species that produces white berries, but then recently found that American beautyberry can make white berries too! WOW!
Yes, our ‘Yuletide’ does seem more pink than red, Tony. I’ve wondered about that. I prefer the less intense color, though we do have some pretty red C. japonicas with good double form. I’ve about decided that the white Camellias are my favorites, or white tinged with pink, and I’m sorely tempted whenever I come across one for sale. I keep ‘finding’ new spots to plant Camellias. We live in an old (50+ yrs) neighborhood that was built into a woodland on very large lots. We have lots of mature trees and old shrubs which give a very enclosed feeling. It is very casual because of the many challenges that would make formality difficult and inappropriate here. Fruit or vegetable production is simply out of the question because of the many animals roaming in and out all the time. I tried in vain for the first 5 or so years we were here, and even when grown up on the deck, the squirrels find a way to get to any produce, fruit or nuts. All I can successfully grow for our consumption are herbs. Here is a question I’ve been researching without finding the answer, and perhaps you know: What happened to C. ‘Jingle Bells’? I remember buying that cultivar in the 90s and planting it at our former home, but now I can’t find it online and haven’t seen it in a nursery for years. It is also a single red, simple flower, very bright centers, etc. and always bloomed in December. Have you grown it, and do you know why it has gone away?
Wow, I didn’t know it was gone. We no longer grow it, but I would not have thought that Nuccio’s no longer grows it. It was quite popular in the 1990s. Nuccio’ supplied many of our stock plants. We got ‘Purity’ from them. (I wanted 1 (!) for the arboretum because it is my favorite, but my colleague ordered 10 (!) as stock plants!) I was surprised that they still had such an old fashioned cultivar from the 1960s. There would be more of a market for ‘Jingle Bells’.
So gorgeous, thx so much for sharing; am green with envy, if you’ll pardon the pun. How much sun does your goldenrod get? Always looking for ideas for my impossible garden (which gets partial sun in its sunniest spot…mostly partial shade-to-full shade.
Monica, Very little of our garden gets ‘full sun’ because we have so many tall trees. There are sunnier spots, but our numerous trees and large shrubs cast shade everywhere at some time of the day. The areas with goldenrod do get at least 6 hours of sun in summer, some a little more. With the sun growing more intense, I’ve noticed plants seem to appreciate a little more bright shade than we’ve traditionally given them. Thanks for all of your kind words. It is a labor of love and always changing here, thanks to the weather, the voles and the deer 😉
I didn’t even mention the deer problem. Oy vey, between the shade and the deer, my plant selections are limited and the “topography” of my property would be challenging even if I had more sun and fewer rampaging critters (at least for a gardener of my limited ability and ever-depleting stamina).
Have you tried white “wood aster” by any chance? Acanthus “whitewater”?
Sorry for presuming to pick your brain…but what you’ve done in similarly difficult conditions is breathtaking!
Sounds like you live in my neighborhood, Monica 😉 Yes, slope, erosion, critters, lots of roots, and shade! A. ‘Whitewater’ is gorgeous, but it isn’t very happy where I planted it. It did return the last 2 years, but it hasn’t been spectacular, like I’ve seen in photos. I’ve not grown wood asters, but we have a clump at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden that were lovely this year. They grow very tall for us there and are rather floppy- the gardener who tends them has them staked and tied up. Shade is a blessing. The sun is getting too bitey for me to be out in it for half of the year. I’m learning to love what will grow well in the shade, and tend anything growing in the sun in early morning or late afternoon ❤ ❤ ❤
Thx so much for your kindness in responding again. I live in Washington DC (after 30 years living in Brooklyn NY, tending a small garden…big only by NYC standards), where the “critter problems” mostly involved human plant thieves, and insect/blight damage, both of which are less of a problem here. Or maybe the deer eat everything “good” before the humans and insects/fungi have a chance at them. (i’m going to try Milorganite next spring.). I’ve pulled out a lot of the ground/cover ivy I inherited, but can’t go whole-hog because otherwise i’d be buried in a mudslide every time it rains…i’m determined to plant a carex variety to replace the ivy in another section next spring and see how that goes, but I always say things like that in the fall.
My garden actually looks OK in June (bits of it are actually quite beautiful…the rest in need of never-ending improvement), but by late summer, it’s a mess and the weather is oppressive and I give up! Plus I’m afraid of deer ticks…quite one thing to wear knee socks under my trousers and long-sleeved shirts in the spring…quite another in July/August.
My apologies for blathering-on…sorry for sounding like a nut; maybe I should find another hobby, but I love plants. Love your blog too.