Hooray for autumn!

Where did the month of September go? It seems like it was just the Labor Day holiday weekend and here I find myself writing on the last day of September. Our summer does seem to have obeyed the calendar and the temperatures dropped and some rain showers have returned right on schedule with the beginning of autumn.

You know what that means – crisp nights, the scent of wood smoke from folks lighting the first fires of the season, apple cider, pumpkins, harvest festivals and… Fall Color!

Acer palmatum ‘Tobiohsho’ is among the first to display its fall foliage color.

This is the time of year when my conifers take a break from center stage in my garden and my Japanese Maples and other broadleaved plants begin to dazzle the eyes with their vibrant color. One of my favorite Japanese Maples for fall color is Acer palmatum ‘Tobiosho’ – one of the earliest to don its incredible array of burgundy, red and orange foliage. I know when ‘Tobiosho’ begins to turn, the others will not be far behind.

Acer palmatum ‘Omure Yama’ stands out with its brilliant orange autumn foliage.

Another spectacular sight in the autumn garden is Acer palmatum ‘Omure yama.’ With its striking, bright orange, deeply cut palmate leaves, it looks amazing near dark green conifers. A premium choice for year-round interest is Acer palmatum ‘Sherwood Flame’ which turns from dark cherry red to a much more intensely bright scarlet red in the fall.

Acer palmatum ‘Sherwood Flame’ is a winner for fantastic color.

Known for its amazing deep red color from spring through summer, Acer palmatum ‘Twombly’s Red Sentinel’ turns shades of bright scarlet while the very hardy Acer x pseudosieboldianum North Wind® (‘IslNW’) surprises as its green late summer color becomes a combination of deep, bright red and intensely rich orange.

Acer palmatum ‘Twombley’s Red Sentinel’ is truly a standout in the garden.
Acer x pseuodosieboldianum North Wind® (‘IslNW’) is a new, extremely hardy form with spectacular autumn color.

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ is one of the last to turn and will generally carry our fall color season to the end of November. Of course by then, Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ will have begun his bright golden yellow show which will persist through the winter along with other winter color conifers.

Often the tree to bring the autumn color season to a close in my garden, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’ is a favorite sight near the end of the show.

Autumn has always been a favorite season for me and no matter what happened in September, with our autumn season kicking into gear, I sense new life even as many of my garden plants are beginning to go dormant for their winter rest. As for me, I’ll be enjoying the garden in all its autumn glory and settling into my favorite chair near the woodstove with a cup of tea, anticipating the winter months ahead.

Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ begins his winter season of color just about the time that the deciduous trees and shrubs have finished their Autumn show.

Hooray for autumn!

Conifer Lover

The magic of autumn

Each one of our four seasons is truly unique. Although each season has its definitively generalized weather conditions which grant its own distinctiveness, here in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, sometimes those unique characteristics are blended somewhat smoothly like an artist might transition from one color in a painting to another. Alternatively, autumn in my corner of the world, often begins as one of the driest seasons and ends with the wet and stormy conditions of winter or spring. Even with the eventuality of autumn’s rain—there is something absolutely magical about this time of year—which may explain the appeal of some of the contemporary expressions of celebrating Halloween.

The moon, when it shows itself, is often partially obscured through a patterned layer of quickly moving cirrocumulus clouds in the nighttime sky. Deciduous trees make their transition from majestic branches full of rich green foliage to the colors of bonfires and sunsets before floating lifeless to the ground, exposing the rugged and sometimes twisted intricacies of their skeletal structure. The air takes on a new scent: that delightfully organic aroma of fallen leaves in the beginning stages of decomposition; the hybrid incense of Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar, Big Leaf Maple and Alder burning in woodstoves; and the stimulating sweetness of spiced, hot apple cider simmering in the crockpot all work together to conjure memories of happy days either lived or imagined.

Of course there are many trees which add to the brilliant autumn experience. The Japanese Maples are a group that are not only perfectly scaled to today’s smaller gardens, they also provide an assortment of lush colors, spring through summer, and then they ignite during autumn to bring some of the most alluring colors of burgundy, red, orange and yellow which may measure up against any plant, anywhere.

Acer palmatum 'Tobiosho'
The low autumn sun peeks through the rich red foliage of Acer palmatum ‘Tobiosho’ highlighting the moss-covered branches of this nearly 40-year-old tree.

For example, Acer palmatum ‘Tobiosho’ puts on one of the most reliable, early, bright-red autumn foliage displays in the garden. During the spring and summer, ‘Tobiosho’ contentedly fulfills its role as a small, multi-trunked, green-leaved tree, slowly growing into a prominent position in the garden, eventually providing shade for other more light-sensitive plants. Suddenly, with the onset of autumn, ‘Tobiosho’ sheds his mild-mannered persona, dawns a bright red cape, and truly becomes a super, intensely colorful spectacle in the garden.

Picea pungens 'Hoopsii'
One of the best, brightest, Colorado Blue Spruce, Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’ stands out in the autumn garden.

A conifer that really does not change color during autumn, but does seem to stand out more brightly in the low autumn sun and against a backdrop of brightly colored leafy trees is – Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’. This amazingly bright blue conifer is known for its incredible color. If there were space for only one large blue conifer in my garden, it would be ‘Hoopsii’.

Pseudolarix amabalis
This deciduous conifer will drop all of its golden needles every autumn. In spring, watch for bright, fresh green foliage to reappear.

Finally, I must mention the delightful Pseudolarix amabilis, a deciduous conifer whose soft green needles emerge fresh and new each spring. During the summer months, one may not notice this fine textured background tree, but with the first hint of autumn, its soft needles turn bright yellow and then golden brown before dropping to completely expose knobby, tan, bare branches.

Enjoy what remains of our magical autumn season as you prepare for what winter may bring to your region.

Conifer Lover

Golden autumn glow

If I were to wager a guess as to what color is the most striking  – the most eye-catching color of autumn, I would have to say it would be the bright scarlet, oranges and reds of the majority of trees in my local area. Having said that, today I want to point out some extraordinary fall-foliage plants whose primary color is yellow.

Cerciciphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping'
This Cerciciphyllum japonicum ‘Morioka Weeping’ begins to glow in the early morning sun.

One of the first plants to catch my eye this morning, just as the sun was beginning to peak up over the distant hills was Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Morioka Weeping’. This deciduous, broad-leaved tree is covered with roundish, almost heart-shaped leaves. Right now, these normally green leaves are turning a deliciously warm shade of yellow with a hint of orange. I noticed yesterday how nicely the tree was coloring up, but this morning, as it was hit with that low sunrise, the tree began to glow in a spectacular way. Most of the garden remained in the darkness of early morning, hint of frost on the edges of my conifers, but this wonderful pendulous tree was lit up and beckoning to the other plants, “Wake up, it’s a beautiful day!”

Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'
Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ provides a stunning golden-yellow color from spring through fall

I finished my breakfast and continued to watch the show outside my picture window as the bright autumn sunrise steadily climbed and shot its spotlight on another golden deciduous tree – this time, a conifer. Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ is a dazzling golden conifer all year-round. It’s new growth emerges a soft yet very bright yellow and seems to become more intensely bright as the season progresses. Finally, with the cooler temperatures that autumn bring, the bright yellow foliage begins to exhibit a hint of red which gives the long branchlets and overall golden hue. Again, this color continues to intensify until all of the foliage drops to the ground, creating quite a colorful carpet of gold beneath the then, bare framework of the Golden Dawn Redwood.

Soon, my Larix, Taxodium and  Pseudolarix will also turn their assorted shades of golden-yellow and drop their needles in anticipation of our coming winter months. I look forward to the intense shots of color those deciduous conifers will provide while making way for more late season sunlight to fall into my garden with the absence of their foliar screens.

Conifer Lover

The amazing colors of autumn

Yesterday the sunrise was incredible! I had a feeling when I crawled out of bed that the day was going to be a good one. I don’t know what it was – I just had a good feeling about the start of the day. I made my way out toward the kitchen for my morning tea, stopped by the picture window and began to draw the curtains open.

The intense colors of an autumn sunrise
Mt. Hood and the surrounding clouds glow with the intense colors of autumn.

There was just enough light in the sky that enabled me to see multiple layers of wispy clouds all around Mt. Hood. In mere moments, colors began to highlight just portions of some of the clouds. As I stood there watching, the colors became more and more intense as they saturated every bit of water vapor in the sky causing my entire field of view to glow in the most exquisite orange and yellow tones while the darkness of the early morning sky remained a blue-violet. As the sun continued its steady assent, the colors flowed and faded to lighter shades of yellow and the blues of the sky became brighter while my mountain morphed from a dark, cloud-capped silhouette to a glowing pyramid of yellow and gold.

The colors of autumn
The colors of autumn, from the sunrise to the leaves of trees, are all around us.

As the sun rose above the horizon and the amazing sunrise dissipated into the normal colors of day-time, I thought about how this autumn sunrise perfectly mimicked the soon-to-come intense autumn colors of deciduous foliage in my garden. Autumn is truly a spectacular time of year. With crisp, cool mornings, sunny days and starlit nights, this season has much to offer. Many deciduous trees all around my area are beginning to change into the amazing colors of the sunrise and the scent of apples and cinnamon and wood smoke fill the air. I’ll soon hear children laughing as they run and jump into the piles of leaves they just raked as their after-school chore and the sound of the firewood being split will be heard near and far.

Mt. Hood Sunrise
The colors fade from intense orange tones to soft yellows and gold.

All of these things suggest that autumn has truly arrived. As I sat near the window, cup of warm Earl Grey tea in my hand, cat rubbing itself against my shin, I knew that soon my entire garden will be ablaze in the glory of intense fall color. Then, as the cold winter winds and rain pound and blow the leaves away, my conifers will stand tall and proud as they become the prime features in the winter garden and bask in the sunrises to come.

Conifer Lover

Eye-popping color

The colors this autumn are fantastic! Our little storm blew through rather quickly, and today I see sunshine and blue sky! As the sun comes up and begins to illuminate parts of my garden, I can see a blaze of color in the spotlight. It’s really quite a sight, the intense reds and orange of the leaves shimmering in the light breeze and sparkling with morning dew.

Fall Color - Fothergilla gardenii
Fall Color - Fothergilla gardenii

Fothergilla gardenii is a great companion to my conifers. In autumn, its foliage color is simply spectacular, but that is not this plant’s only redeeming feature. Early in spring, the plant becomes covered with creamy white, bottle brush shaped flowers at the ends of the branches. The flowers last for several weeks and then rich green foliage covers the plant through the summer months.

Spring flowers
Spring flowers

Now the sun has risen enough to raise the lights on the entire stage of my garden, but even without being in the spotlight, Fothergilla gardenii, provides some of the best eye-popping color in my autumn garden.

Conifer Lover