Monday, October 17, 2011

Embracing Autumn - GBBD October 15, 2011

Embracing Autumn. I've been trying to take my cue from all of the bloggers posting about the wonderful sights and smells of autumn but it's very hard for me to do. Spring is definitely my favorite time in the garden.

Not because autumn isn't beautiful, for it is.  In fact, many would say that nowhere in the world is autumn quite as beautiful as it is in New England, where the fall foliage is usually vibrant, the red and orange and gold so vivid, the forests seem to glow as if on fire.

So why can't I enjoy the crisp air, the way leaves swirl along the edge of the driveway in the breeze, the changing colors and textures in the garden? Well, for one, if autumn is here, can winter be far behind?

This year, autumn has been less fun than usual, in part because the traditional fall colors have been muted in the extreme. I'm hoping that the brilliant hues we normally see are simply delayed.

The sugar maple across the street is usually a brilliant orangey red in late September. Last year (top photo), I collected leaves and waxed them to send to soldiers we support in Afghanistan and to decorate the table with for Thanksgiving.

This year, the leaves have all fallen and barely achieved a passable gold before they began swirling around the entrance to our driveway.

I hear that the color is better in the Mount Washington and Berkshire regions, but there is no question that rainy and cool end of summer weather has affected the fall color where we live.

Although autumn has definitely arrived in our gardens and most of the perennials have set seed and are going dormant for the winter, we still have a rainbow of colors. The roses, especially, are doing their part to make sure that the garden is alive with color and a haven for bees, butterflies, and birds.

The large swaths of blooming perennials are definitely a thing of the past, but virtually every summer-blooming plant has sent up a flower or two or more, providing sometimes unexpected pops of color throughout the yard.

Nothing says autumn in a New England cottage garden like wild asters. Owing to the influence of Nancy Ondra, we planted our first ornamental grasses this summer. The combination with wild asters that self-seeded in all of the cottage beds is a breath of fresh air after the disappointing foliage display!

The other big surprise this month is the lavender. We have our formal beds edged in Munstead lavender and it typically peaks in June. We trim it back in early August and usually get to enjoy a second, lighter bloom in September. This year, while some of the rest of the garden has struggled with the heavy rain and cooler than normal temperatures, our lavender (which normally isn't fond of being damp, mind you)  has thrived and is stealing the show. The second bloom has been even more robust than the June bloom, and even after a more than a month, the hedges are still flowering enthusiastically.

I love to cook with lavender. I dry buds to use in baking, save wands to flavor the barbecue, and also burn wands in the fireplace in winter. I've added lavender to cupcakes, tea, and even to a meat rub. But my favorite use of lavender is definitely medicinal. I use commercial lavender oil on light bulbs to perfume the house and spritz our bedsheets with lavender linen spray. I find the fragrance helps me to sleep better and to relax when I'm anxious.

But we truly appreciated lavender as a medicinal herb following our tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's two neurosurgeries. Spencer (Eulenburgs's Voyage Home, Spencer Tracy) earned his nickname "Toughie" because of the determination he showed to survive a catastrophic congenital brain malformation that left him near death when he was four months old.

Keeping him on bed rest after both his first emergency brain operation and his second operation a year and a half after the first for insertion of a shunt was made tremendously easier with the use of lavender, which I put in his food and sprayed on his bedding in his pen.

With the room totally perfumed, I'm not sure who it helped the most, him or me. But three years later, if he has a headache or is experiencing an increase in neurological symptoms, he will immediately seek out the lavender and self-medicate. When I see him lying on the hedges or nibbling on the buds and blooms, it usually means a visit to the vet is in the offing..

This photograph was taken this week, just before Toughie's most recent visit to the vet for his acupuncture treatment.

The roses continue to send forth fragrant, gorgeous blooms, although many are somwhat stunted by the persistent rain and cold. late summer and fall perennials are putting on a show, and there is beauty in the seed pods, garden visitors, and even in some of the weeds!

Although there is plenty of yellow, white, orange, and pink to go around, the red roses are stealing the show this week. The Double Red Knock-Out's are covered with blooms, and both Mister Lincoln and Olympiad have provided bouquets for the house. But the real treat this week has been Dublin Bay. Although it's a climber, we prune it and grow it as a shrub rose. This rose has shown a remarkable resistance to mildew and the dark red blooms are stunning. The shrub has been covered with blossoms for the past month.

Sprays of Double Red Knock-Out roses are plentiful. The red and white open faced bloom of the Fourth of July climber are a luscious blend of red, white and pink.
Some of the red beauties blooming today are Dublin Bay (top left), a climber that we prune and grow as a shrub rose, Olympiad (top right), Double Red Knock-Out (bottom left), and Mister Lincoln (bottom right).

Also filling the garden with red are the geraniums and a late summer surprise, Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans).

When we bought the sage, we got it because I loved the fragrance and thought it would be fun to cook with.  And indeed, I used it to add a hint of pineapple goodness to some meat dishes and cupcakes over the summer.

I was surprised this week when tall spikes of red flowers began blooming in the herb garden! My first thought that was that it looked like the cardinal flower we see growing along the river banks where we canoe.  A sniff of a leaf confirmed that what had been a relatively compact plant for much of the summer now looked like an herb on steroids and had attained a height of 4 feet seemingly overnight.

Other pops of red are showing up everywhere in our pots and container plantings where an assortment of both Nova geraniums and ivy geraniums continue to fill the planters with color.

Geranium blossoms from some of our container gardens. We also had assorted pinks, white, and lavenders but none of those are blooming although several buds are ready to open. We'll bring many of them in for the winter.

The pink roses are just behind the red when it comes to beautiful garden color. Pink blooming perennials are also doing their part to provide late summer color.

Lovely pink roses currently in bloom include Bonica (top left), Cape Diamond (top right), Wisely (bottom left), and Passionate Kisses (bottom right).
We are also enjoying Gertrude Jekyll (top left), Blushing Knock Out  (top right), Cupcake (middle left), Memorial Day (middle right)., Lady Elsie May (bottom left), and Mary Rose (bottom right).
A few Japanese Anemone blossoms are still blooming in most of our beds, although nothing like they were a month ago (top left). A deep pink zinnia  (top right) from one of the raised beds on the deck - we also have them in the perennial beds to give fall color; The spirea continues to bloom (bottom left);  Sedum  Brilliant (bottom right) has given a brilliant performance.
Left Top:  Snapdragons that have been growing in one of the planters around the base of one of our potted trees. Bottom left: A striking pink phlox. This popped up unexpectedly in a spot in the garden where I don't recall ever planting any phlox, and the plant is only about 24 inches tall. Right: We still see some coneflowers here and there through the garden, although most have faded and the tops have dried.

There is precious little orange in our garden this time of year, aside from the Monarchs which have been visiting our Butterfly Garden for the past 6 weeks, and some of our koi. The orange lilies are busy producing seeds, their blooms long since passed. And the foliage that usually provides brilliant orange color has been a major disappointment. The "orange" roses, Tropicana and Fragrant Cloud, which have been blooming all summer, have slowed down and although they are both sporting buds on several stems, with the cooler temperatures and shorter days, the blooms are much slower to develop. 

A Monarch in our Butterfly Garden.
Hints of orange and peach are seen in the Pee Gee Hydrangea (top left),  Apricot Drift rose (top right), Bella Roma (bottom left), and Hot Cocoa (bottom right.)

The hydrangea tree on our deck (top left) has white blooms that turn deep apricot and then warm peachy rose. The single yarrow bloom, though deep pink, looks almost peachy as a result of the bright yellow blossom centers. Two blooms of  What a Peach rose (bottom left and middle) show a blossom that has just opened (middle) and another that is about a week old (left). And  a just opening bud of our Peace rose (bottom right) shows a lovely mix of yellow and pink.

 Yellow flowers are among Steve's favorites and we have been adding more and more to our gardens.
 This is our first year planting Texas Tarragon (top left) in the herb garden.  It makes a lovely tarragon chicken. We do not cultivate goldenrod (top right) as we are both allergic to it, but volunteers from the meadow behind us pop up here and there. Hotel California (bottom left) continues to bloom and the yellow marigolds we planted among the vegetables on the deck are at their peak in terms of blooms and beauty (bottom right).
The bright yellow bud of Rio Samba (top left) evolves into a deep yellow and rose and then yellow and orange beauty.    More goldenrod (top right) Yellow calibrachoa  (bottom) cascades over the edge of one of our planters.
Texas Tarragon (top left) in the herb garden.  Yellow strawflowers (top right). Yellow zinnias  (bottom left). Rudbeckia (bottom right).
Julia Child (top left) has been a star performer this summer. Macy's Pride has been our most favorite yellow bloom this summer. An enthusiastic performer, the shrub has been covered with blooms all summer (top right and right).  Rio Samba is another favorite (left middle and bottom) .These blooms just opened and by mid week, the color of the petals will have evolved to a beautiful rose and then orange bi-color. When we have less rain and more sun, the color change is more dramatic and vivid.

Lavender and purple are well-represented in the garden as well this time of year. The wild asters are popping up everywhere. (We've had to pull some over-enthusiastic volunteers who were growing where they shouldn't.)

The violas benefited from a late summer haircut and are once again covered in blossoms, many of which I have pressed to use in paper crafts over the winter.
Top: Lavender wild asters, lavender phlox; Bottom: Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender', Cranesbill "Jolly Bee"
Left: Lavender Mexican Heather, Cuphea hyssopifolia; Right: Purple petunias
Buddleia, Butterfly bushes,"Dark Knight" (purple) and "White Profusion"  (white)
"White Profusion", white butterfly bush with a carpenter bee seeking nectar.
Clematis Henryii on the left, a single bloom on the left lamp post. A single lavender bloom (cultivar unknown) also appeared on the strawberry garden trellis.
Top Left: Wild asters, white. Top Right: White straw flowers.  Bottom left: Montauk Daisies, which do not usually re-bloom to this extent, are blooming again in in the herb garden. Bottom Right: White echinaceaa (coneflowers).
Although it appears almost creamy when the buds are just opening, the bloom on the left is John F. Kennedy and will open into a beautiful white tea rose.   If the middle bloom, Lace Cascade, looks familiar, it's because of its relationship (identical) to Iceberg. Lace Cascade is a climber, and I'm not sure why it wasn't simply named Climbing Iceberg.   The New Dawn blossom on the right is the palest pink,  having opened a slightly deeper shade and then faded nearly white with age.
The nights are getting colder and the days shorter, and we have already begun the task of preparing the beds for winter.  While most of the perennials have stopped blooming and seed heads are drying, we still are able to enjoy beautiful rose and perennial bouquets. Even as the perennials slowly fade, the roses will continue to bloom right until it snows.

The other hallmarks of the fall garden are the fruits and berries that provide food for us and winter food for the wildlife in the area. I'll feature those in next week's foliage tour of our gardens. 

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is the brainchild of Carol who blogs about her gardening escapades at May Dreams Gardens. Like me, Carol is a lover of spring (May in particular) who invites gardeners to record the blooms in their garden every month throughout the year on the 15th of the month. You can read more about it on her blog where you can also find links to tens of dozens of other gardens who celebrate their gardening blooms each month with Carol. Click here to visit Carol's fabulous blog!


  1. I've noticed that the fall foliage has been off this year as well, which is strange considering how wet it was in August and is now. Hopefully we'll still get a nice display before the leaves all drop.

  2. Fall may not be as beautiful this year as previous years but at least you get to enjoy Fall. We don't even get to see Fall in the tropics.

    How nice to know that you waxed those maples leaves and send them to soldiers and also decorated them. They are gorgeous with such interesting colors.

    Hope Toughie is feeling better after his acupuncture treatment.

    Your collages of roses are just awesome!

  3. Wow - you have a lot blooming! And I love the way you divided them into color groups. Love the Bella Roma - what a pretty color, and all the lavenders, especially those sweet violas. Very nice! I bet your garden is just gorgeous! I, too, am not looking forward to saying goodbye to the garden for the winter. I hope spring comes early!

  4. What a gorgeous array of colours you are sharing today. I'm only a fan of Autumn when the sun is bright. On those dull, damp days (like today) I can feel the hibernation process begin and I don't want to go out.

  5. I am with you. I love the Fall colors but hate to think of what comes next. Our colorful leaves have all been knocked off by the rain and winds so early this year.Your roses ares blooming so beautiful still. I would hate to see all of those colors gone too.

  6. Well at least it looks like you have a lot of blooms to try to make up for the lack of foliage colors! I love your roses. The Dublin Bay is beautiful - such a different shape!

    That is so interesting about your lavender and how it is even a relaxer for your beautiful dog!

  7. lovely have so much still blooming!

  8. So many beautiful roses and so many colors! Fall may not be our favorite but love how you are 'embracing' it! I've seen those Montauk Daisies in a few posts lately... time for me to look those up :)

  9. So many beautiful blooms still vibrant in your garden! I have to say autumn has been more vibrant here in Wisconsin this year--I don't know why. I don't remember it being like this for a while, but maybe I just don't remember. But I don't have all the beautiful blooms that you do. Just gorgeous!

  10. You may not have the brilliantly colored leaves, but you still have many wonderful blooms. We don't have any fall color here in the desert. I don't consider most of the "trees" here real trees, with real leaves, that I'm used to from back east. A few lose their leaves, but just turn brown and fall off. I do miss the beautiful fall color.

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