The Last of the Autumn Garden

 The brief but spectacular colors of autumn have nearly all come and gone at Chickadee Gardens. We likely would have had a longer season had it not been for a small tornado that went through our property on Tuesday the 10th. You read that right. A tornado, here in Oregon. On my street. Granted, we didn’t realize it at the time because of course we’re not in tornado alley. We are more accurately in the über exciting Mole Hill Gulch, land of few weather catastrophes. But we did experience winds at 65+ mph with all that lovely autumn color coming at us horizontally and actually pelleting the house. And the little maple helicopters. And branches. Thank goodness there was basically no damage, save for a spindly Douglas fir that came down on our fence – we were lucky. Nobody was injured in this small event, but it woke up the neighborhood and took care of the last of the leaves. All that color is on the ground and in the neighbor’s yard.  

ANYHOW, I digress. I did happen to capture some autumn color before the tornado, so here’s the “before”. The “after” is not recorded because, well, it’s a bunch of bare trees and I’m sure you know what that looks like.

First up, artichokes with a backdrop of asparagus foliage in the veggie garden. Yes, I stripped off the leaves on the artichokes to make the faded flowers stand out. I leave the flowers for the birds and squirrels, they really enjoy the seeds. The artichoke foliage is coming back – it goes semi-dormant in late summer for us.

Detail of asparagus foliage. It’s so golden this year!

A small but mighty Parrotia persica or Persian ironwood tree planted two years ago.

Cotinus ‘Grace’ took a long time this year to color up. The color started last week, all of a sudden, after a couple of rather cold nights. 

The color really is illuminated, as the leaves become translucent.

Amsonia hubrichtii and Acer palmatum leaves.

The gravel paths are a challenge to keep clean this time of the year. I would just leave them until the trees are finished losing their leaves, but that would leave a deep coating of wet leaves, a mighty task to remove them and pick leaves out of the decorative rock lining these paths. Instead, I treated myself to a battery powered leaf blower this year. While the battery only lasts about 9 minutes in a charge, I love it. It has helped me with this recurring task immensely. Now if they would only improve that battery capacity. Sigh, a gardener can dream.

The Acer macrophyllum dumped their leaves nearly all at once this year. This is one of three along the shade garden edge.


Miscanthus s. ‘Cabaret’ with spent flowers of Solidago ‘Fireworks’ in the distance.

Detail of miscanthus leaves changing color. These huge grasses have been reliably upright for me for the last five years. This year, however, after a heavy early autumn rain they flopped open and remain so. I think perhaps it also has to do with how much water they received this summer. That is to say they got more than they had in the past. I have another of these in a location that got virtually zero summer water and it is upright and happy.

Sweet Calendula ‘Radio’ has been blooming non-stop since spring when I direct sowed seeds in the veggie garden. This year, I have been drying calendula petals (and many other plants and herbs) to make salves and other herbal adventures to give as gifts.

Another miscanthus – this is Miscanthus s. ‘Malepartus’. I moved it year before last, as it outgrew its original place quite quickly and was in the way of a path. It sulked last year but this year came back and has not flopped as it is supported on either side by cistus.

Cotinus ‘Pink Champagne’ grew a lot this summer, although it is a smaller cotinus or smoke bush overall. From
Xera Plants a few years ago, I really enjoy this small shrub in a dry border.

Physocarpus ‘Diabolo’ had dark purple foliage all season. Turning rich wine red is a bonus. Great deciduous shrub.

Persimmon or Diospyros kaki ‘Saijo’ has not only grown significantly this year but has lovely color. Hopefully it will fruit for us soon.

A messy, fluffy autumn mess in the berm garden. Next spring the artemesia and a few other goodies are getting a hard haircut to keep them in check, I think it will make a big difference.

A beautiful dawn redwood or
Metasequoia glyptostroboides given to me by Evan of
The Practical Plant Geek a few years ago. A deciduous conifer, it goes out in a blaze of bronze.

While not in the category of fall color, this Cheilanthes sinuata or wavy cloak fern in a gravelly dry area caught my eye this week.

Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’ finally giving up the autumn color. This is one of the last to change in my garden. No flowers yet on this young tree, hopefully next year. 

Looking out our bedroom window, a view impossible to see from within the garden. The flopped open grasse are Panicum ‘Cloud Nine’ (closest) and P. ‘Northwind’. This is primarily due to late summer – early autumn heavy rain. I have considered taking them out because of this, they tend to do it every year. The Miscanthus ‘Malepartus’ center right with gold foliage, not so much. It stays pretty upright.

Another non-colorful plant but a sweet favorite is Sedum palmeri. This has been reliably hardy for me in the garden for five solid years.

The top of the driveway with the beginning of the berm garden. FM’s new stone staircase on the left. An evergreen magnolia that was here when we moved in had been cut of a foot off of the ground, presumably to remove it. But it grew back and I’ve tried to decide what shape it should be – multi-stemmed shrub or to take all suckers but one out and let that grow? Any suggestions? I like it for its evergreen leaves which I use in many bouquets.

A very favorite artemisia, A. frigida.

Stipa gigantea in the background, Viburnum rhytidophyllum ‘Alleghany’ in front. A semi-evergreen large woody shrub, this plant is a nice backdrop for other flashier plants.

Plain ol’ Acer macrophyllum in the super messy chicken yard. Well, at least the hens have something to look at. They aren’t reliably good for color, some years better than others.

Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’ near the fire pit.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ can have nice yellows before it goes dormant for the year.

An unexpected source of color, this Solomon’s seal or Polygonatum (unknown species) really shows up in the shade garden this year.

The Cupressus arizonica ‘Nathan’s Gold’ given to me by my friend and plantsman Nathan Champion is beautiful. Backlit by one of many native cascara or Rhamnus purshiana.

Calycanthus ‘Hartlage Wine’ gets in on the act with some lovely yellows and huge leaves.

The radishes are abundant this fall. 

The pumpkin and winter squash harvest was pretty good considering it wasn’t the hottest of summers. We grew Musquee de Provence and Winter Luxury pumpkins, butternut and delicata squash, too. Hopefully, they will turn a little more color in the greenhouse where they are currently curing. Some may not be ripe enough but we try to glean as much produce as possible, so we’ll give curing a try to see if those butternuts will turn a pretty gold color.

Finally, a wide shot at the edge of the garden. Amsonia hubrichtii glows under another Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’.

While I usually think of trees and shrubs for autumn color, I’m learning that the veggie garden, for example, is another source. Also I’m lucky that the surrounding properties all have interesting trees of one sort or another, all adding up to a very wonderful whole. The thing about it is that this time of the year plants show up that normally get overlooked. It’s as if they are saying “hey…I’m here too!” against a backdrop of Douglas firs and other evergreen stalwarts of the Oregon landscape. I’m happy to notice them and the layers of color they give to the landscape that surrounds us.

There it is, the end of the season and the beginning of a new one coming soon. I have a feeling this winter might be a long one, so taking in the garden daily is a treat to soothe the soul.

That’s a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy gardening!

Oh, and if you want to read the local article on our tornado, you can find it here. Here is also NOAA’s report on it, thank you Paul!