It’s hard when surrounded by the temptations of spring shopping at garden centers and nurseries to remember that there’s a third season in your garden, the fall which needs to be planned out as thoughtfully as the rest of the year.
For many of us, by the time fall rolls around and the garden is looking a bit drab, all the nurseries for already sold out, to more thoughtful and less impulsive gardeners, the stars of September and October. This year is especially difficult, the whole season was skewed a month or so early, so many of us were facing August with less color than we’d anticipated.
So for those of us with drab areas, here a few things worth hunting down. Beginning with the trees. Naturally, everyone should have a Ginko. The change of color doesn’t last for very long, but the shock of yellow the elegant leaves provide before they drop is shatteringly beautiful.
The best Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) lives at the base of Lake Road in Bridgehampton, its leaves a rich mélange of russet, red and auburgine
River birches also turn a good golden shade, as does the Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) and the Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria painculata). It’s hard to ignore a Japanese stewartia, with leaves that transition from orange to scarlet, forgetting of course that it also has fantastic bark and camellia shaped white flowers in July. It’s a must have for your garden.
I could write a book on the fall colors of Japanese Maples, but I need not. All I have to do is to tell you to take a stroll past my father’s house on the corner of Main Street and Palmer Terrace in a few weeks and the trees speak for me. I think each one has a different color ranging from plum to orange to scarlet and there’s yellow there too. I tagged seedlings I had to have last year based on their color but was too busy to purloin them in the spring, a situation that must be rectified next year. Of course if you don’t have the room for my dad’s-sized trees, try and track down one named ‘Orange-ola’ after its extraordinary flaming fall foliage. Or visit nurseries and watch to see which tree turns the best color – chances are it’ll be on sale too, which is always nice. I’m watching a couple, but I can’t tell you where for fear you’ll scarf them up before me.
Shrubs fall into the category of where to start. The maroon of the Oakleaf Hydrangea, the paprika of some deciduous azaleas, the electric Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) with the berries birds adore, the scarlet of the Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’). Or think of the berries available and grab up every Viburnum you can, especially the one named ‘Winterthur’ whose berries color from pink to blue just as the leaves turn a deep shade of bloody maroon. And of course the Compact Burning Bush is a have to have for those of us with full sun.
Marders had a variegated Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) that I missed out on getting this year, bad Paige! So it was striking even before it set its fabulous fruits. And each year I swear I’m going to invest in an assortment of Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) whether it’s ‘Sparkleberry,’ ‘Red Sprite,’ ‘Winter Red’ or ‘Berry Heavy’ but there’s still a need for them in my yard. For the most startling orange, red, purple & yellow in autumn all you need is a fothergilla ‘Mount Airy.’ I never remember to buy them in the spring, and when I see one and try and find it, all the nurseries are always sold clean out.
I’ve run out of room and I haven’t even touched on the perennials, bulbs or annuals one must have to be totally blessed out in the autumn. Sounds like my garden doesn’t it? Too many plants and not enough room. I of course didn’t have room for dahlias in either my column or my garden this year, and the color they add is now especially missed. And of course if you don’t have any Japanese anemones you’re crazy. My ‘Honorine Jobert’ is blooming its guts out and my annual salvias are looking spectacular. It’s time to go shopping darlings, just make sure everyone grabs a witch hazel if you can find one. Not only will it light up your spring, but boy will it electrify your fall.
Paige Patterson’s husband just asked if she’d ever seen one of the peepers that are singing so sweet these last few evenings. Confessing she hadn’t, they’re now planning a peeper hunting party. Any takers?