Northern Shade Gardening

Summer or Fall Garden?

Sunday, September 21, 2008 Category: Perennials

We are having a gradual transition between summer and fall. Some plants continue along flowering, as if they have never heard of autumn, while others are wearing their yellow and red jackets already.

Campanula poscharskyana 'blue waterfall' September

Campanula poscharskyana

The bellflowers are firmly of the opinion that you should never give into fall. They keep a stiff upper lip, with leaves green, and flowers blue or purple.  Here is Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’ (blue waterfall bellflower). This low growing bellflower continually sends out many flower stems, each with dozens of blooms, covering the surrounding area with starry beauty. The flowers are created in such profusion, that I don’t deadhead them much.  Sometimes I cut off the flower stems that have finished, but it doesn’t seem to affect the amount of blooms. My biggest ‘Blue Waterfall’ with the most blooms is tucked in behind a Hydrangea, on the north side of a fence, with a birdbath on the third side. I’m amazed that it has so many blooms in such a shady area. These should continue bringing summer colour right past the first few light frosts.

Campanula cochlearifolia and Pulmonaria in September

Campanula cochlearifolia and Pulmonaria in September

The Campanula cochlearifolia (fairy thimble bellflower) are as pretty as they were in June. Their clear blue bells hang down the stalks, looking fresh and dainty. These bellflowers mingle slightly at the edges of the Pulmonaria x ‘Samourai’ (samourai lungwort), blue against silver.

Campanula rotundifolia in September

Campanula rotundifolia in September

Another bellflower, C. rotundifolia (harebell), also continues to flower, as if summer will never end. These have had their bells since June, weaving among the surrounding plants. Their foliage is so delicate in the shade that it never overshadows the other plants, but the thin flower stalks entwine with their neighbours. The brown leaves that have fallen from the maple are the only clue in this picture that fall has begun.

mushroom

mushroom

These mushrooms pop up behind the birdbath every fall. Here they are bursting forth, next to some ‘Blue Waterfall’ bellflowers. They have a unique form as their tops open up and peel back. The outside layer is curling back in petal shapes from the top button.

Cimicifuga simplex 'white pearl' in September

Cimicifuga simplex

The Cimicifuga simplex ‘White Pearl’ (bugbane) was probably not the best variety for an area with a short growing season. It flowers extra late, even for a Cimicifuga. It will be lucky to bloom before the first frosts. I’m hoping that the white fairy candle blooms will get a chance to shine before they succumb to the inevitable cold. Late fall flowers give you something to anticipate, but not if the frost gets them first. They are the last blooms that I am waiting for this year.

Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba' with fall golden colour

Dicentra spectabilis

The Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ (white bleeding heart) have turned an all over yellow for fall, making a nice contrast to the dark green Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) which surround them. They are very showy in the garden now, like they were in early spring when the long flower stalks were draped with white heart shaped beads. The bleeding hearts are holding onto all of their leaves for now, creating a golden display underneath the willow.

Heuchera 'Mint Frost' with fall colour

Heuchera

This Heuchera ‘Mint Frost’ has been silver and green for the past 3 months, but now it couldn’t resist the fall peer pressure, and it is sending out some purple veined leaves like its cousins. I don’t know if the whole plant will be more purple next year, or if this is its autumn state, but it has decided to join the colour parade. Around the edges you can see some bellflowers.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lamb' bloom with deep fall colour

Hydrangea paniculata

The Hydrangea paniculata ‘Little Lamb’ blooms continue getting more beautiful every day. They started off pure white in the summer, and get a deeper rust colour everyday in fall. It is now an intense autumn red colour, much deeper than the  PG Hydrangea. I have been very pleased with this shrub, which holds its enormous panicles upwards. You can read more about hardy Hydrangea in this earlier post.

On the cusp of fall, some plants are clinging to summer, and some are joyfully plunging into fall colours. Fall entices us with crisp mornings, beautiful colours, a bounty of food and earthy scents. I reluctantly let go of summer, and delight in the new season. However, eventually the beautiful fall leaves blow away, crisp turns to cold, bounty to barren, and a big white blanket of snow descends. Tricked again, it’s winter. Are you holding onto summer, or celebrating fall?

Early Fall Colour

Tuesday, September 9, 2008 Category: Perennials
Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) berries fall colour

Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) berries fall colour

The evenings and nights are cooler now, and some of the garden plants are gradually displaying more yellow, red, orange and brown. We haven’t had any frost, but fall colour changes are noticeable

The Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) berries are a bright reddish orange now. They look striking when outlined against the broad green leaves. This photo shows the round berries suspended in front of the fine lines of the leaf. Some of the berries have disappeared, and are not underneath the blades. I wonder if an animal has been having a snack here, or if the winds have spread them around?

Hydrangea paniculata grandifolia (PG hydrangea) fall colour

Hydrangea paniculata grandifolia (PG hydrangea) fall colour

The Hydrangea paniculata ‘grandiflora’ (PG hydrangea) blooms, which started out bright white, are developing their fall pinkish tinge. The pink colour is more pronounced this year. Overall, the hydrangea have had an excellent season. This shrub is still completely covered in the large flower panicles. In places, it is hard to see where one bloom begins and another one ends. They stayed white for a long time, and now their autumn transition is particularly pretty. This shrub adds a lot of beauty to the garden, over an extended time. Its early shape and foliage was attractive, and now its flowers are the focal point of the garden. I’ve been looking around the garden for other spots to add more hydrangea. Here is description of different hardy Hydrangea I grow.

Mattueccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern) fertile frond fall colour

Mattueccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern) fertile frond fall colour

Here are the fertile fronds of Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern). These fertile fronds develop in the centre of the fern during the summer, starting green, and now fading to brown for the fall and winter. The intricate detail of their curved shape give them an interesting pattern. They will produce spores to create more ostrich ferns. I haven’t had new ostrich ferns developing from spores in my garden, but I have had lady ferns develop from spores, between my patio stones. My ostrich ferns increase very slowly by sending out a runner with a new fern about 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) from the old plant. Usually only one of my ferns does this each year. In warmer zones I think they spread much faster.

Astilbe simplicifolia 'Hennie Graafland' fall colour

Astilbe simplicifolia

The Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Hennie Graafland’ flowers have faded to a reddish brown, a classic fall colour. The plumes will gradually fade to an overall brown. Right now, they still look decorative in the garden. I leave them in the garden, but I think they would make a great dried decoration for autumn.

A few other plants are shifting to their fall appearance. The foliage of Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ (white bleeding heart) has turned yellow. It is a strong contrast against the dark green lily of the valley.

Gradually, more tinges of red, yellow and orange are appearing, changing  from late summer to fall. So far the signs of a transition are subtle, but there are hints that more dramatic changes will be coming.

Do you see any early fall colour in your garden?