Monday, 12 October 2015

The Garden in Fall 2015

Fall has come suddenly this year. It seems that the end of the hot dry weather has caused an immediate change in leaf colour on all those plants that brighten up this season. The warm reds and oranges of foliage are combining with the blues and purples of asters and aconites to keep the back garden full of interest even on a grey rainy day.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes' Dwarf' in the foreground grows more vibrant every day. Two weeks earlier, it looked like this:

Now, as it turns to flaming red, some of the leaves are developing lovely patterns.

 My young paperbark maple, Acer griseum, is a glorious scarlet exclamation point.

The blueberries, having provided us with summer lunch, are now feeding us in another way with their dramatic foliage, going from this ...

 to this...

On the back fence Rosa pimpinellifolia is demonstrating why I love this plant in every season. As its shiny hips fade and wrinkle, the leaves take over, offering a medley of fall colours from green to orange to russet to deep, rich brown.

The brightest can hold their own with any other star of the fall garden.

 Among the flowers, aconites reign supreme,

... but toad lilies, Hydrangea 'Kiyosumi' and Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' in the shadiest corner under the pear tree are still giving them some competition. 

Aster 'Little Carlow' is also continuing to make a splash and is abuzz with bees on every sunny day. It has grown long and leggy this year and crashes to the ground with every shower of rain. Taller, stronger supports are on my shopping list for it before this time next year.

Close to the house, Persicaria 'Firedance' refuses to slow down, while behind it Corylopsis pauciflora is putting out unseasonal flowers. I'm apprehensive about how this will affect its normal spring bloom.

Across the garden on the east fence, the foliage on Cotinus 'Grace' complements the pale pink flowers of Aster 'Anya's Choice'. This is a shorter aster than 'Little Carlow' and has so far stood up well to the rain.

The front garden rarely looks as good as the back. This is partly because we spend more time out back, which is more private and also, being south-facing, more sunny. But it's also because plants in the front have to cope with much more difficult conditions. Part of the garden, close to the house is in total shade all year. That's not so bad: I can find plants that like that cool but bright environment. The rest is in shade for about seven months and in hot sun for the summer months. It's more difficult to find plants that can endure that kind of drastic change, especially this year when most of the shrubs ended up with at least some scorched leaves. Hydrangea 'Nikko Blue' was so singed that I thought it was dying. I pruned it and stripped it of leaves and, thank goodness, it has responded by putting out fresh green foliage.

Next to it is Sedum 'Autumn Joy', whose flowers this year have stayed a pinkish-brown rather than their usual bright rosy hue.
 Adding to their difficulties is the overhanging maple on the boulevard whose roots suck most of the moisture out of the entire garden. It's an ugly tree without even the benefit of pretty fall colour; it just turns brown. The Sedum and the Hydrangea bear the brunt of its presence. A little further away, another 'Autumn Joy' is much less affected.

Meanwhile, Hydrangea 'Beni Gaku', somewhat shaded by Rosa glauca to its west, is coping well and looking decorative.

 Against the north wall, Rhododendron schlippenbachii, although in full shade, also suffered from the dryness this year, but in spite of singed edges is managing to look relatively colourful. Behind it, Enkianthus perulatus is just beginning to go from green to red. In a couple of weeks it will be the fiery focus of this bed.

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