A few weeks ago, an extended cold snap that ended with a light frost on the last night of summer nearly brought the growing season here to a screeching halt before fall even arrived. Fortunately, an extensive and well-deployed collection of blankets, tarps, sheets, and towels helped me get nearly everything through the chill, and the recent milder weather has truly been a gift. For this Bloom Day, I offer you a sampling of my October favorites for flowers, foliage, and fruits and seedheads here at Hayefield.
Asters, of course, are in abundance all over. Above, rich purple and soft pink, self-sown New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) associating with purple-blue aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium). Below, just one clump of what I call ‘Hayefield Variegated’ frost aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum). The variegation is fitful from seed and variable in expression, but it adds a little something different to a species that’s super-abundant here. I pull out loads of the solid-green seedlings each year but am happy to spot and spare the few marked seedlings that appear each summer.
The not-particularly-common Aster tataricus above is commonly called Tatarian aster, but I always think of it as still-an aster, because it got to keep its genus name when our natives were split off to Symphyotrichum, Eurybia, and other, more difficult to remember genera.
Then there are the goldenrods, like these two formerly known as Solidago and now Oligoneuron: stiff goldenrod (O. rigidum), above, and Riddell’s goldenrod (O. riddellii). The latter is a new one for me this year, from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery, and I am really impressed with its dense, clump-forming habit.
I recently read a magazine article about a garden whose owners requested that the designer not include yellow flowers. To each their own, I guess, but it’s hard for me to imagine a glorious fall garden without golds and yellows. Beyond the ubiquitous goldenrods, there are silphiums still blooming now, including entireleaf rosinweed (S. integrifolium) and softer yellow Mohr’s rosinweed (S. mohrii).
And my goodness, imagine a sunny fall garden without the many wonderful yellow-flowered perennial sunflowers, like Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), below.
There are a number of lovely, lesser-known yellows for fall as well.
Above, some lingering blossoms on Corydalis ochotensis; below, the blooms of common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) much closer to the beginning than the end of their show.
And below, black mint or huacatay (Tagetes minuta), which just started flowering about a week ago. It usually blooms at about 7 feet tall, but its volunteers from the previous season’s seeds pop up in various places through the summer, and they tend to be shorter when conditions trigger them to flower.
Yellow isn’t the only color in the fall garden, of course; there are some really nice whites and near-whites too. The double-flowered autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale ‘Alboplenum’) is always the last colchicum to bloom here, a couple weeks after the others have been and gone. Below is…well, I guess you’d call it great white lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica ‘Alba’). Or white great blue lobelia. Great, either way.
Above, the crisp blooms of autumn ox-eye (Leucanthemella serotina), also known as giant daisy. It’s a welcome sight for fresh white in late September to early October here. Below is Aztec sweet herb (Phyla dulcis), a deliciously foliage-fragrant, tender treasure that’s been in bloom like this since June.
Azure monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii) is usually dependable for October blue, and it may yet live up to that, but it’s not showing signs of opening yet. Bluebeard (Tripora divaricata), on the other hand—shown above—is just about finished.
It was hard to decide where to put porcupine tomato (Solanum pyracanthum or S. pyracanthos) in this post. Its most obvious feature is its orange spines, but the rich purple flowers definitely add to the show.
It was a really good year for the variegated kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Persicaria orientalis ‘Shiro-gane Nishiki’). Their bold foliage somehow managed to escape the Japanese beetles back in summer, so the plants really thrived and have flowered abundantly.
Below is snail vine (Cochliasanthus caracalla or Vigna caracalla), also known as corkscrew vine. The flowers are exquisite, both in form and fragrance. I just wish it were more willing to set and ripen seed in a timely manner.
As the flowering season winds down, the resulting fruits and seeds gain more prominence.
Much to my delight, my largest American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) set fruit for the first time this year. It was worth the 15-year wait! The fruits ripened much earlier than I expected, and they dropped off in perfect condition for easy gathering. I have eaten a ridiculous amount of them over the past weeks. Oddly, however, almost none of the fruits had seeds inside, and the few seeds that I did find did not look like the viable seeds I have handled in the past. Apparently it’s possible for the species to produce fruit without pollination. Or maybe the other seedling I planted a few years later pollinated this one but didn’t set fruit itself. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next year. The seedless fruits are easy to eat, but I really wanted the seeds too!
Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa) hips are so pretty in the garden, and they are yummy to nibble on too. No lack of seeds in these puppies, for sure!
The small, bright yellow globes of malevolence (Solanum atropurpureum) are definitely NOT for eating, which is a bit of a shame, as there are lots of them on my plants right now. Navigating through the thorns to pick them (for collecting the seeds, not ingesting) is a tricky proposition, as you can imagine.
I’ve eaten the purple fruits of ‘Issai’ beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) and thought they were ok. I keep forgetting to give these white ones (C. dichotoma f. albifructa) a try, because the plant is in an out-of-the-way spot.
I haven’t eaten any of my American filbert (Corylus americana) harvest, either. Last year, I put the two dozen nuts I collected in a plastic bag with moist vermiculite in the refrigerator in November, then took it out in March and left it on my basement potting bench. Nearly all of the seeds germinated, slowly and erratically, over the next 6 months, and some of the earliest seedlings got big enough to be planted out by their parents this summer. My harvest of nuts this fall was sparse, but eventually I should have enough to sow, eat, and share too. (By the way, what you see below is the husk of one nut, not the nut itself.)
I rarely take pictures of blackberry lily (Iris domestica, formerly Belamcanda chinensis) at its “blackberry” stage, because I usually collect the seeds just before their pod splits, in an effort to snag them before some sort of lepidopteran larva gets to them first. It’s about an even race each year.
I have no problem with accepting lepidopteran larvae (specifically, monarch caterpillars) on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), but ugh, those awful orange oleander aphids (Aphis nerii) are another story. I’ve been rubbing them off this plant every day in lieu of spraying, but there are always more. It was enough intervention for me to get these two seedpods to ripen, though.
Love, love, love the October look of round-headed bush clover (Lespedeza capitata), shown above, as those round heads turn to rich brown while the leaves are still silvery green.
Fall is prime time for grasses too. Above is Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha); below is northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).
Many warm-season grasses have fall foliage that’s just as good—or even better than—their seedheads.
Above is frost grass (Spodiopogon sibiricus); below is flame grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’).
Speaking of fall foliage colors, here are just a few highlights…
Above, shining sumac (Rhus copallinum, or R. copallina); below, hemp dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum).
Above, climbing asparagus (Asparagus verticillatus); below, American filbert (Corylus americana).
As we’re nearing the end of the tour, how about some combinations featuring color from various fall features?
Above, golden Hinoki falsecypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’) against the outstanding fall color of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)—a perfectly unintentional partnership, of course.
Below, rich red Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolius) with the white-turning-rosy pink Persicaria ‘Crimson Beauty’.
Above, a wave of Brazilian bachelor’s button (Centratherum intermedium) attempting, but mostly failing, to engulf the towering tails of variegated kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Persicaria orientalis ‘Shiro-gane Nishiki’). The BBB looks huge, but it’s in a raised bed in front of the ground-planted KMOTGG.
Below, a surprise seedling of ‘Crimson Rambler’ morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) winding up through ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranth (Amaranthus).
Aromatic aster (Symphytotrichum oblongifolium) pairs beautifully with many partners, such as orange-pink-yellow ‘Flower Carpet Amber’ rose (Rosa) above and the intricately shaded seedheads of northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) below.
Above, frost aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum) popping up through Peach Sorbet blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘ZF06-043’). And below, just one of many permutations of autumn purple-and-gold: ‘Golden Fleece’ goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata) against New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).
Along with all of the fabulous fall flora, some fascinating fauna has been showing up recently.
I believe this is a native Carolina praying mantis (Stagmomantis carolina), based on its ootheca (egg case). Please correct me if you know I am wrong!
This little guy (or girl)—a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), I think—started showing up about a month ago and has been hanging out under the front roof eaves during most days since then. I’m worried that the discoloration where its eyes should be is a sign of white nose disease. This is the first bat I’ve seen around here in about 15 years, since that disease showed up. I’ll hope it is healthy and finds a safe home for the winter. But if anyone knows where I could find someone to consult about this in southeastern PA, I’d appreciate the lead.
Now, isn’t that is beautiful sight? A lovely 6-yard pile of “screened compost garden mix,” just waiting to me to have time to put together a bunch of new raised-bed frames back in the seed garden. I get this black gold from Barnside Farm Composting Facility, based in Schwenksville, PA. If you live in southeastern PA and need topsoil, compost, leaf mulch, or custom blends, I highly recommend giving Barnside a call. I have no connection with them (the owner is a different Nancy) and was neither asked to give this recommendation nor paid for doing so; I am just a very satisfied repeat customer.
Well, that’s it for this month. I’m planning on taking a break from blogging for the next few months, so I can try to get caught up on cleaning, packing, and listing seeds for sale. For those of you who like to participate in my yearly seed giveaway in January, I’ll give one more reminder that I’ll be making those seeds available through my seed newsletter, rather than here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe so you can access the giveaway, there’s a signup box at the very bottom of this page. If you think you have already signed up and want to confirm, you can email me and I’ll be happy to check.
See you again in 2021, and we’ll all hope it is a better year than this one has been. For now, I’m off to collect more seeds!