Beyond the Sweater Drawer: Gardening In Layers for Autumn Color & Texture

October 18th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Stunning Abelia mosanensis, Backed Up by Lovely Lindera benzoin and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, Together in a Stellar Second Act.  

Getting dressed for October weather in New England usually involves a tank top, t-shirt, bright sweater and weatherproof jacket. As the season grows colder, this list grows to include colorful wool socks, hat, scarf, gloves and a stylish pair of warm boots. Eventually, I’ll put away the tank tops and t-shirts and pull on the long Johns before adding everything else. Our wardrobe colors and patterns may switch up but our bones remain the same.

Callicarpa dichotoma, Rudbeckia hirta Stand Out Against Glowing Amsonia hubrichtii. Beauty to Brighten the Dreariest of Days.

Once you know your plants, designing a garden for autumn isn’t much different from planning your fall wardrobe. When creating a planting plan for any season, I start with basic garden structure of trees and strubs (aka “the bones”), and then select perennials and annuals to flatter throughout the growing year. It’s important to consider how things will look in the big picture —just like standing in front of a long mirror and turning side to side, before you head out the door— as individual layers and details fade away and others appear or color up in changing weather.

Amsonia illustris Shines Against Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’s’ Frost-Kissed Leaves. This Pairing Gets Bolder in Late October, When the Witch Alder Glows Bright, Orange-Red

A good understanding of color —how to work relationships between harmonious and complementary hues— comes in handy when designing a garden, as does a good mental database of plants and how their textures and appearances shift throughout the seasons. Certain leaves will morph from green to red, others will glow orange or gold, and some will just blacken and shrivel! As foliage fades, little details like berries, bark and seed pods really begin to matter; popping against the moody grey landscape and glistening in frost. Knowing what to cut back, and when, can make all the difference between a beautiful first frost and early winter blahs. When in doubt, leave it standing and make notes! You can always pull out the shears later. These are the elements of plant-driven design that fascinate and thrill me; familiarity with them will give you a great three, and even four-season landscape.

Layered Autumn Looks Go Way Beyond the Basic. This Meadow Walk Planting Design Features Trees, Shrubs, Perennials and Grasses for Depth. From Bottom Left: Amsonia illustris, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Cornus kousa, Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’, Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Betula papyrifera, Fothergilla ‘Mount Airy’, Persicaria amplexicaulis, Juniperus horizontalis and Rudbeckia hirta. 

Blue-Violet Aromatic Asters (A. oblongifolius), Complement Beautifully with Golden Amsonia illustris. Color Harmony Comes Later in the Season, as the Asters Fluff Up to White Tufts and the Amsonia Bleaches to Bone.

A Different Angle on the Meadow Walk Reveals How Layers of Trees, Shrubs and Perennials Vary the Visual Experience —Color, Texture, Form— Leading Down the Path, Toward the Secret Garden Stairs.

Article and Images copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Second Thoughts & Encores . . .

October 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

With a Backdrop of Golden Clethra alnifolia and Side-Show of Blackened Rudbeckia Pom Poms, Glistening Asclepias tubersoa (Butterfly Weed), Parachutes Await a Breeze

Some things in life are one-hit wonders, and others are worth a second thought or three. When it comes to gardening in a cold climate, I’m always looking to get the most out of my growing year. With this in mind, I am generally pretty picky in my selection of plants. With rare exceptions (fragrant plants like peonies come to mind), I ask at least two seasons of performance before I’ll let any newcomer through my garden gate. Points of consideration: flowers are a real plus, but their absence is not a deal-breaker; good bones are always important, especially for trees and shrubs; foliage —dramatic or changing— is considered a high value asset in both herbaceous and woody plants; and colorful berries/drupes/seeds/calyxes/tufts/bark are always very desirable.

The three plants featured here are unusual knock-outs both in bloom and again, later in the season with other special effects. Butterfly Weed (Aesclepias tuberosa), gets double points as a beautiful butterfly magnet; foliage for caterpillars and later, brilliant orange flowers for adults. But it’s autumn that brings out this plant’s hidden treasure: spiky, dramatic seed pods that split to release silver-white parachutes into blue October sky. Magic!

Recently Featured, Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides), is an Autumnal Double Feature worth Repeating. Here Seven-Son Flower’s Calyxes Shimmer Alongside Rose-Tipped Tufts of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis).

Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides), recently featured, is another butterfly favorite in the late-season garden. Watching Monarchs dance about the fragrant blossoms would be gift enough, but the long-showing rose calyxes offer an unusual hue at this time of year. I love this plant paired with purple-tinted Ninebark leaves (Physocarpus opulifolius, ‘Diablo’ is my favorite), and silken tassels of Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis).

Another less-common beauty, Fingerleaf Rodgersia  (Rodgersia aesculifolia), offers three season interest from early to late in the garden year. Creamy white or pink cultivars bloom on sturdy stems in late spring through early summer, looking fresh and cool above gorgeous, dark green foliage. Then, in early autumn, the boney remains begin to ruddy up to purplish ruby, just as the leaves morph to gold. Sweet alchemy! Don’t grab your shears just yet, though. Left standing over winter, the flower heads will slowly shift from dark brown to jet black —perfection with sparkling frost or a light dusting of snow.

With gorgeous foliage and beautiful summertime flowers, Fingerleaf Rodgersia (Rodgersia aesculifolia), is just a great garden plant, all the way around. Still, I think her best attributes are on display in autumn, when her gilded foliage is offset by a bejeweled crown, shifting from complementary ruby-violet to dramatic jet black bead.

So many garden plants offer more than one season of beauty, but sometimes, it takes a bit of sleuthing to discover them. Of course it helps to haunt great public gardens and commercial displays at this time of year. Make notes for shopping clearance sales at garden centers or return in spring to snap up those collectible, rare gems before they’re all sold out. The best plants are always worth at least a second thought!

Article and Images copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Into the October Fire

October 11th, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

Cranberrybush Viburnum (V. trilobum), turns up the heat with Lindera benzoin Blazing Gold Beyond

It’s yet another wet and dreary day here in Vermont, but even the non-stop rain can’t seem to extinguish this October’s fire. Here’s a peek at the week’s highlights in a few snaps made between showers . . .

Red, Orange and Gold — Oh My!

Within the Secret Garden, Damp, Earthy, Fall Fragrance Fills the Air

Autumn Alchemy: Silver Bells Turn to Gilded Leaves. Halesia tetraptera

Viburnum trilobum & V. plicatum with Miscanthus purpurascens & Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ 

Article and Images copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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