A Light in the Autumn Fog …

North American native Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) Shines Brightly in a Clear, Luminous Gold (for a detailed profile on this fantastic plant, click here and to see her spring blossoms, be sure to click here)

Most people don’t get excited about dark, dreary days. After all, it’s hard to jump up and down when you’re weighed down by rain gear and heavy galoshes. And this year, rain has a pretty bad rap: New England has had more than its fair share, and many states were devastated by flooding. Still, I have to admit that I actually like the rain, and I always enjoy a bit of autumn gloom. There’s just something about rain and drizzle that makes colorful foliage sing in the grey, mist-softened landscape. Oh how I love a foggy fall day.

Two of my favorite native shrubs for early to mid autumn foliage color are Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) and Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). The clear, luminous, lemony gold of Lindera benzoin shines like a glowing lantern in the entry garden on a drizzly evening. Placed in the center of an all-star, autumn line-up —including Witch Alder (Fothergilla ‘Mt Airy’), Bodnant Viburnum (V. bodnantense ‘Dawn’), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’) and Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) among others— this beauty really holds her own from spring to fall. Read more about this pollinator friendly native plant in my previous post by clicking here, and be sure to check out photos of her delicate, golden blossoms by traveling back to a springtime post, linked here.

Underused and Oft Misunderstood, Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) is One of My Autumn Favorites. Backed Up By a Clump of Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), This Gorgeous Native Shrub Glows Like a Bonfire in the Mist. (For more information about Rhus typhina, as well as other sumac species and cultivars, click here.)

Of course, lovely as the yellow leaves can be, when it comes to autumn in Vermont, most people tend to think of orange and red foliage. And although leaf peepers may admire the brilliant show as they whiz past her fiery foliage on the highway, few can name the beauty in the technicolor dreamccoat: Rhus typhina. I adore sumac and grow a variety of species and cultivars in my garden (read my post on the oft-avoided and widely misunderstood Rhus family by clicking here) including the lovely, chartreuse-leaved R. typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’. But lucky me, Staghorn Sumac grows naturally at the edge of my woodland boundary. All that I need do in order to maintain this beautifully soft border is to thin unwanted cherry or black birch saplings when they pop up in and around the sumac stands. I like to play the brilliant hues of Staghorn Sumac against a backdrop of sparkling gold paper birch (Betula papyrifera) or —for extra drama— the deep maroon of Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ (click here to read about this dark and dramatic shrub). Wow, just look at these beauties together …

A Stand of Staghorn Sumac Began to Form When I Started Planting the Ninebark Border (Physocarpus opufolius ‘Diablo), Six Years Ago. I’m Enchanted by the Unexpected Drama. (Click here to read more about dark and mysterious Physocarpus opufolious ‘Diablo’). That’s Rudbeckia lacinata in the foreground; tawny stalks with seed heads held high for hungry finches.

Photographs and Text â“’ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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