It’s that time of year again: time for the Fall Color Project, hosted by Dave at Growing the Home Garden. This is my fifth year participating in this event. Compared to some other years, this season’s fall colors in my part of southeastern Pennsylvania haven’t been the most spectacular. In fact, until about a week ago, I was wondering how I could possibly scrape up enough decent photos for a whole post.
Really, it’s not toohard to find color this time of year. Though we had one frost a few weeks ago, there are still some fresh autumn flowers, including a couple of asters.
Aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) self-sows freely here. Though most of the clumps are done flowering now, there are still bits that look nice even this late. Above, it’s with Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and ‘Harlequin’ rue (Ruta graveolens).
Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus, below) is always dependable for blooms in mid- to late October. I tend to forget that it also develops nice yellow foliage color around this time.
And then there’s ‘Sheffield Pink’ chrysanthemum (below), which has a sneaky habit of opening its buds on October 16 – just one day too late to make it into my October Bloom Day posts. It’s worth waiting for, though: the flowers are showy and abundant, and the bees go crazy over them. Above is a bit of ‘Sheffield Pink’ with ‘Harlequin’ rue (Ruta graveolens), Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), and aromatic aster.
There’s color now from fruits and seedheads, too.
The winterberries (Ilex verticillata) – ‘Winter Gold’ above and ‘Winter Red’ below – have set loads of fruit this year. They’ll look spectacular for a more few weeks …until the deer notice them.
For some reason, red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia, a.k.a. Photinia pyrifolia; below) doesn’t thrive here, but there are usually a few berries on the bits that survive.
Above, ‘Flying Dragon’ hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata); below, Chinese quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis).
The foliage of ‘Issai’ beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma; above and below) got zapped by the frost just as they were starting to color up, but the berries are still putting on a splendid display.
Many seedheads aren’t especially colorful on their own, but the foliage around them shows them off beautifully. Above is tall ironweed (Vernonia altissima); below is great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis)…
…and below is little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).
Flowers and fruits are all very well, but what we usually think of as “fall color” is the color from the changing leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs. That’s not one of my strengths, since most of my trees are on the small side and not especially eye-catching – from a distance, anyway. I do find that it’s worth hunting for fall color close to ground level out in the meadow, though, because the colored leaves make it easy to spot nice woody plants.
I take a walk out there a few times through October and carry a can of spray paint with me,so I can mark the nicely colored baby trees. That way, I can easily avoid them when I’m mowing the meadow during the winter.
Give me another 10 years or so, and I should have a lot more of the usual kind of fall color to show. (By the way, I can tell you that my choice to use yellow paint this year was a bad idea, because I can already tell that it’s not very easy to see. Next year, I’ll go back to blue or red.)
Fortunately, the garden has managed to come through for me yet again, this time with some interesting fall foliage colors.
Above, ‘Henry’s Garnet’ Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) with Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), ‘Huron Solstice’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum), and several species of native asters.
Below, the same ‘Henry’s Garnet’ Virginia sweetspire and Arkansas bluestar with buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis).
Spireas produce some interesting fall colors, too. Here’s Dakota Goldcharm (Spiraea japonica ‘Mertyann’): above with ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum rupestre) and creeping bramble (Rubus rolfei) and below with ghost bramble (Rubus thibetanus).
Mellow Yellow spirea (S. thunbergii ‘Ogon’, below) is just now starting to turn orangey at the shoot tips. It’s usually at its best in early November.
To my mind, the very best spirea – and maybe one of the best deciduous shrubs, period – for rich fall color is ‘Tor’ birchleaf spirea (Spiraea betulifolia, above and below). This 2- to 3-foot shrub is hardly noticeable through most of the growing season, but when it turns shades of gold, orange, and purple in fall, you can’t miss it.
Viburnums, of course, are also fantastic for fall color. Above is ‘Bailey Compact’ American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum); below is golden European cranberrybush viburnum (V. opulus ‘Aureum’).
Above, the fall-colored foliage and calyces of fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis); below, Japanese emperor oak or daimyo oak (Quercus dentata).
Above, ‘Flying Dragon’ hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata); below, pawpaw (Asimina triloba).
Above, Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia); below, Chinese quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis).
And then there are the grasses, of course! Above is ‘Transparent’ purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea) with aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium); below is Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’) with ‘Gerald Darby’ iris (Iris x robusta).
Above, ‘The Blues’ (now more like “The Pink”) little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) with ‘Dewey Blue’ bitter switch grass (Panicum amarum) and the seedheads of orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida).
Below, ‘Cassian’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) with Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus).
Above, ‘Northwind’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum); below, ‘Dallas Blues’ switch grass.
And one more switch grass: ‘Cheyenne Sky’, below.
Other perennials don’t get much credit for fall foliage, but some of them make a nice contribution to the seasonal spectacle. Above, the leaves of golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia); below, ‘Black Beauty’ Orienpet lily (Lilium).
Above, asparagus (Asparagus officinalis); below, Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).
Below, Indian physic (Porteranthus stipulatus).
Above, Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum); below, Japanese burnet (Sanguisorba tenuifolia).
And then there’s one of my top favorites of the fall-colored perennials: Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), above with ‘Southern Comfort’ heuchera and below in a row along the driveway.
Put the fruits and flowers and foliage together, and there are still some very pleasing views of the garden as a whole (or at least there were, before Hurricane Sandy). The next six are shots of the side garden.
Below is the “shade border” out back.
Above and below, the perennial meadow area.
Above and below, parts of the Long Border.
Some shots from The Shrubbery:
The star above is prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis); below, ‘Washington Park’ witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis).
Above, yellow ‘Hummingbird’ summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), reddish arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), and orangey fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) with a couple of switch grasses (Panicum virgatum).
Below, several seedlings and cultivars of winterberry (Ilex verticillata).
Above, three-flowered maple (Acer triflorum), aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), and Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) along the driveway.
Below, starting at the left, ‘Bailey Compact’ American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. trilobum), golden European cranberrybush viburnum (V. opulus), Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum), Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), and ‘Caramel’ heuchera (Heuchera villosa).
And below, another part of the front garden, with an unnamed Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), seersucker sedge (Carex plantaginea), Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’), ‘Gerald Darby’ iris (Iris x robusta), and – in the background – golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’) and three-flowered maple (Acer triflorum).
So, I guess I didn’t need to worry about getting enough outdoor shots to fill this year’s fall color post after all. But since I’d already come up with a back-up plan, I’ll toss in the results of Plan B: some scans of leaves that I picked up around here and at my parents’ farm across the road.
Want to take a virtual tour of fall colors in other areas? Check out the other participants in this year’s Fall Color Project!
My previous posts for the Fall Color Project: