24 October 2010

Fabulous Foliage, and Spotlight Saturday...on Sunday.

To coincide with my Chronicle Herald column for today, I thought I'd blither on a bit more about the joys of foliage for autumn. But before we get too far into my rhapsodic ramblings about leaf colour, a brief public service announcement. It's been far too long since I did a 'SpotLight Saturday' post, primarily because life got in the way what with garden season being full steam ahead, coupled with book writing and other work that pays the bills whilst book writing...Something had to give, and so the amount of time spent reading blogs fell off. Now that gardening is winding down and the days are much shorter, there's more time to read...and I like to encourage and promote other blogs, so I'll try to do these more often.

I first became aware of Dirt Gently's Horticultural Adventures because the blogger appeared in my Twitter feed as a new follower. Naturally, as a Douglas Adams fan I was completely smitten with the blog title...and a quick visit showed me this was a fun blog to follow. Great photos, and some self-effacing humour about gardening skills. The blog was only started in September, so a little encouragement from fellow bloggers is always a good thing.

Disclosure: I look after the blog for Baldwin Nurseries, and it's a work in progress. Baldwin's is one of my favourite nurseries in the province, and Robert is a good friend who loves plants, especially natives and those that are good for pollinators. So while 'he' may not comment much on other people's blogs, I do hope you'll visit and leave comments for him to enjoy. And come see the nursery, of course. It's getting a bit late in the season now, but he has plenty of great shrubs for fall and winter colour.

For those of you in Canada who watch CBC, Rob is participating in Debbie Travis's show All for One, tonight at 9 pm. I know very little about the show as I'm not a fan of home decorating shows, but I do know that tonight's show was shot in Windsor, NS. So I hope fans will tune in!

Which brings me back to blathering on about foliage. Dawn redwood (Metasequoia) is one of my favourite of non-native trees, with its graceful growth habit and interesting history. Before the needles of this deciduous conifer fall, they turn bronzy gold, and their spring colour is also bronze toned. The winter interest is in its striated, striking bark and elegant form.

A four-season beauty, the native red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) has some excellent colour in its foliage. Once the leaves drop, the twigs show off brilliant red colour all winter. The cultivar 'Flaviramea' has golden twigs. You need to keep this shrub well-pruned so that it has plenty of new growth--older trunks lose their winter colour.

This photo is NOT mine. Although I have two burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) in my garden, getting decent photos of them has been a challenge since they began turning colour, because of the incessant wind. So I decided to turn to Google for help, and chose this Botany Photo of the Day shot so as to also promote UBC's excellent website. In today's column, I mention how I receive regular emailed photos at this time of year, wondering what "that" shrub is with the great colour. This is "that" shrub.

I wholeheartedly recommend ninebarks to everyone wanting a great four-season shrub. Most of them have interesting coloured foliage all gardening season, deepening to richer shades as autumn comes on. This is 'Diabolo', a purple-leafed cultivar that is an excellent, hardworking, easy care shrub.

The deciduous azaleas turn colour before losing their leaves, although they've been highly annoyed by the wind this autumn and have been more battered than colourful. This is an unnamed variety from Bill and Sharon at The Willow Garden. I have a number of their tough, beautiful rhododendron and azaleas, including several crosses that haven't been named.

Kolkwitzia is one of those plants that some refer to as old-fashioned, commonly planted and just sort of "there" in the garden. I love it for several reasons, not the least of which is the delicately luminous colour in fall foliage. 'Dreamcatcher' has richer colouring throughout the season, but mine was mown down by an errant lawnmower last year and is slowly recovering. So this is the common variety, given to me by a friend several years ago.

Barberries are excellent for fall colour. This is a seedling shrub from one of the purple leafed varieties in my garden. It's getting redder day by day.

Although the fall colour of my copper beech isn't showstoppingly brilliant, I include this photo for another reason. Beeches and oaks display a trait known as marcescence, meaning they retain their foliage for months after it has died. Usually it's younger trees that will do this, and my copper beech is only a few years old. Come winter, its coppery-brown leaves will look quite interesting--especially when there's a four-foot snowdrift surrounding the tree!

Many perennials will display some interesting fall colour as they wind down for the year. This is 'Alma Potchsche' New England aster, flowers faded but foliage still providing me with a smile.

And to wrap up, the always-wonderful foliage of Virginia creeper, catching some rays of sunlight on a day when the wind WASN'T screaming--a circumstance that has been rare this autumn, as I've mentioned before.

The montage at the top of this post includes Miscanthus 'Malepartus', showing great tints in its foliage; euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow', which I'm hoping is going to make it through the winter here with a little care; and 'Brilliance' autumn fern (Dryopteris), which has gorgeous foliage all through the growing season.

Okay, it's over to you, fellow bloggers: what are your favourite plants for fall colour?


  1. For foliage, favorite tree - our New England sugar maples and coral bark maple, favorite shrubs oak leaf hydrangeas and doublefile viburnums, favorite perennial hosta 'Elegans.' I love the title of that blog - it's hard to come up with something new and clever - well done!

  2. Love the blog. We just moved to Nova Scotia and I can't wait to start gardening in the spring.

  3. I love my Liquidambar for its red color in fall. Here on the west coast our colors are not as vivid.I also have a Ninebark and love it for its color.

  4. So many to choose from, but at the top of the list would be Japanese maple and burning bush. Also redbud tree, oak leaf hydrangea, and Chinese pistache tree. Also dogwood...

  5. Love the Diablo! But would it survive in a cold climate?

    I'll have to check out Dirt Gently; sounds fun!

  6. I love the rich and vibrant colors of the Euonymus alatus.

  7. My favourite plant for fall colour is the Liquidambar tree outside my office window. The leaves fall on to a lawn, so make lovely patterns against the green. And I don't have to pick up the leaves! It is an oldish tree, tall and has a hollow trunk - really beautiful all season but especially now. This is one of the trees that give reliable autumn colour in our climate.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  8. I like that burning bush for fall color even if they have fallen out of favor around here. I wonder if my Tricolor beech will hold its leaves like your beech does?? We will have to wait to find out.

  9. I'm with Cyndy - totally enamoured with my oak leaf hydrangea. It is young, yet, but performing beautifully this fall. I first fell in love with the shrub at Kingsbrae Garden, where I work, and simply had to have it in my garden. First planted it out front, so I would see it going and coming, but the deer seemed to love it a little too well, so moved it to the fenced back garden, where it rebounded happily.

    "Idiot Gardener" - Diablo is the nine bark I have and it is wonderfully hardy, colourful, exuberant... couldn't ask for a happier shrub! Not sure where you are, but we have a 5a/b climate here in St Andrews - southern New Brunswick (Canada).

    Sugar maples are glorious, of course, and so many other trees and shrubs.


    PS we have photos of the day throughout the growing season on our KG blog; through the late fall winter and early spring, we have a slideshow retrospective, new each week. Have a look!

  10. Jodi,our foliage seems to be stuck right now. Nothing is really turning yet, but I love many of the plants your wrote about. I also love crapemyrtle foliage in fall. It turns a lovely color. I can't wait. Oh, and witch hazels are pretty fall creatures which come to mind. Happy fall.~~Dee

  11. Jodi girl !
    I wish I had gotten to your post sooner .. i would have watched that show (which normally I don't .. not a Debbie Travis fan) but if it was done in Windsor NS I would have WATCHED IT !!
    For outstanding quick colour my Engleman Ivy .. azalea, Tiger Eye Sumac .. my big Stag Horn did not do well this year for some reason .. darn it !! .. miscanthus Purple Flame .. the grasses ingeneral are gorgeous .. Center Glow Ninebark looks exactly like your Diablo (yup .. I know it has a toe hold in the gene pool of mine : ) There are so many wonderful Autumn coloured plants I could go on and on and on .. but I won't do that to you girl ! LOL

  12. I was looking at the conifers and evergreens with just a twinge of envy~They don't really like my zone 7 garden! I do keep trying them. A garden needs evergreens. Love, love, love Diablo~The best dark leaved shrub. But the shrub I so much want to find a spot for is the kolwitzia~I've loved it from afar for years! gail

  13. I love my ever growing heuchera collection. The foliage colors change from month to month rather than just in the fall. They are always doing something new. Easy to grow, they are what i concider the perennial answer to coleus bedding. I cant say I have a favorite, but tiarella "Crow Feather" (a close relative) has the most richly colored leaves in winter and spring I had to mention it. I bought a Fothergilla 'Blue Shadow' this season, and i've read it has outstanding fall color, but still has not begun to change. Outstanding barberry photo, btw.

  14. Beautiful foliage, Jodi! Even though burning bush is not a favored plant in our area because it's said to be invasive, my burning bushes are still my favorite for fall color--nothing else quite approaches that brilliant red. And hydrangeas--what other flower still looks so good in its old age?!

  15. Oh my goodness. I didn't realize that you mentioned me in your blog. I'm flattered! Thank you!


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