Northern Shade Gardening

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?

39 Responses to “Early Fall Colour” »

  1. gail :
    September 9, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Hi, your garden’s fall signs are lovely. The ostrich fern is wonderful. It must love your cool, rich soil. Signs around here~goldenrod is ready to pop, the Black-Eyed Susans are browning and it smells very different.

  2. Joy :
    September 9, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Hello there Northern Shade !
    I love the red berries .. and seeing the hydrangea floweretts ? I love cutting them and having them in a vase for the winter months indoors .. really easy to “dry” them.
    Is that Jack Fost leave at the right of the comment area ? ..I am still very much in love with “him” too ! haha
    I am happy seeing Autumn come .. now if only we would have some spectacular coloured leaves for October ? : )

  3. barbarapc :
    September 9, 2008 at 9:06 am

    You know I’m so happy to see my ferns in the spring – don’t give them much of a second thought late in the season – your great ostrich fern shot has given me inspiration to get out there and have a closer look. Realized that my Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ is starting to colour too – generally it would have been long gone by now – probably all the rain.

  4. Mother Nature's Garden :
    September 9, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I am sure I need to move my lily of the valley. It has done nothing although I have had it for several years. At first I thought the fertile fronds were Japanese painted fern.
    Donna

  5. Nancy Bond :
    September 9, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Wow, that ostrich fern is amazing! Not much fall color here except for the occasional yellowing leaf on the trees. :)

  6. Karen :
    September 9, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Your beautiful photos/plants are making me miss my shade garden! Love the astilbes. Happy Fall!
    – Karen

  7. Northern Shade :
    September 9, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Gail, you’re right about the smell of fall, an earthy scent. The goldenrod and browning black-eyed Susan are a sure bookend to summer.
    The ostrich fern does love my garden, and it spreads very slowly, which is the perfect balance.

  8. Northern Shade :
    September 9, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Joy, I think I need a cutting garden, with hydrangeas in it. I’m always torn between enjoying the fading blooms in the garden, and drying them for indoors. I would probably see them more over the winter inside. There are certainly enough flowers this year to do both.
    Yes, that is a ‘Jack Frost’ leaf from my garden waving hello to you next to the comment fields. Have you seen ‘Mr. Morse’ yet? It has a very similar leaf pattern and colour, but with white flowers.

  9. Northern Shade :
    September 9, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Barbarapc, the fertile fronds from the ostrich ferns are really noticeable. They are about 30 cm (1 foot) tall. They look good over the winter. At least until the snow covers them completely.
    I should have included a photo of the Dicentra. It does have a nice even yellow colour to the whole plant, but was green up until a couple of weeks ago. Because we don’t get the extended high temperatures, mine keep their foliage all season.

  10. Northern Shade :
    September 9, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Mother Nature, my lily of the valley loves my yard. In fact, I’m a lily of the valley enabler. Although it’s very easy to remove, and it doesn’t come back for the rest of the season when I do remove it, I mostly let it have its way in my garden. I love the blooms, the scent and the hardiness. It looks good around or next to so many different plants. Plus the red berries look like Autumn right now.

  11. Northern Shade :
    September 9, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Nancy, although I pine for warmer days at the end of summer, the colour parade that’s just starting is a fair bargain in return. I love summer, and will miss it, but the crisp mornings, earthy scents and fall colours are a good consolation.

  12. Northern Shade :
    September 9, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Karen, the ‘Hennie Graafland’ astilbe looks especially nice in the fall. The darker centre of each flower fades to a dark reddish brown, which really stands out. Although I prefer the softer look of the ‘Europa’ astilbe when it’s blooming at its peak, this one is more showy now.

  13. Pomona :
    September 10, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Beautiful photos and interesting ideas as usual! Fall does change plants, these are nice examples. I’ve just returned from the high mountains where fall was moving right along, but now I’m back home it’s mostly late summer here. Except: crickets! And just a hint of something in the air, starting about 4 weeks ago.

    The fertile ostrich fern frond makes me want to stop thinking about ferns and actually do something with them. But only when fall (and rains) really get here.

  14. Northern Shade :
    September 10, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Pomona, I love camping in the mountains. In Alberta, the closest national mountain parks are Jasper and Banff. Fall is my favourite time to go. It’s a wonderful time for hiking, and usually a great time for wildlife viewing.
    My favourite ferns are Athyrium x ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern), Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red'(lady in red fern) and Dryopteris expansa (spiny wood fern). However, the ostrich fern is my favourite in the spring when it unfurls up to 4 feet tall in a period of 3 weeks.

  15. Ken from Sweden :
    September 10, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    HI!
    I have tried to get in to our blogsite for several times, I think it would be intresting to se and read beacouse you seams to have the same climate as me….but I cant see your pictures?
    They never “pup” up.
    Maby you can help me?
    Regards Ken

  16. Northern Shade :
    September 10, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Ken, thanks very much for letting me know that the photos are not displaying for you. I wonder if anyone else is having that problem? I have tested my site in many different browsers, and they show for me. I will check into it and see what is wrong.

  17. Barbee' :
    September 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Regarding your photos: I do see them when I am using FireFox, but now in Internet Explorer they are not there. Your header photo is there, and the one down low where the comments blank is looks good. Guess it is just the ones in the post.

  18. Northern Shade :
    September 11, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Barbee, thank you very much for checking it for me, and giving the feedback. It helped me narrow down the problem. I’m going to come up with a work around.

  19. Phillyguy :
    September 12, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Here’s a tip for anyone planting ostrich fern in shade. Although they are tall, planting them near a walkway allows you to look down into their elegant vase shape in the spring and early summer. They seem all the more special when you can brush by them rather than looking from afar. Unfortunately, they may splay outward in late summer, and you may need to trim off fronds that get in the way. Another negative, if they are planted in soil they like, they can become invasive, with some effort required to remove new clumps from underground runners.

  20. Beth :
    September 12, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I am unable to view your photos at my office but I think that might be a firewall issue. (Guess I shouldn’t be looking at gardening blogs on company time!)
    Loved the pink hydrangea. My “Angel’s Blush” is lovely right now – actually turning a very deep pink at last look.

  21. Northern Shade :
    September 12, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Phillyguy, the unique vase shape of the ostrich fern is lovely. What a good idea to showcase this trait in the garden. In my zone, they don’t seem to overrun, but I could see it being more of a problem in some areas.

    Beth, thank you, I think I just fixed the photo problem. They were showing up fine in IE7, IE8, Firefox, Safari and Opera browsers, but not in IE6. I had to add some markup to the theme specifically directed to IE6.
    I really appreciate my hydrangeas this year. I have seen pictures of ‘Angel’s Blush, and it looks delightful. The deepening of the pink you describe sounds like a good fall show. I would like to plant some more hydrangeas, but I’m not sure where just yet.

  22. Aud på Dal :
    September 13, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Hi
    Thanks for the comments at my blog to day.
    I like the color of Matteuccia struthiopteris, because I like plants with dark leaves, and i have a lot of them. Can’t remember i have seen so dark leaves on fearns before.
    I have add you to my Blogg list, hope it’s OK.

  23. Northern Shade :
    September 13, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Aud på Dal, I like plants with a variety of foliage types too. The fronds that are going to produce the spores for the fern do look different from the regular long arching green fronds.
    Thanks for adding my blog.

  24. Barbara :
    September 14, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Here definitely autumn has started with all its typical colours (and also cooler temperatures!). I am glad you had a good year with your hydrangeas. This summer I wasn’t so lucky with them. They only showed very few blooms and some bushes even no at all, so I hope for the coming year.

  25. Northern Shade :
    September 14, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Barbara, I wonder exactly what combination of sun, temperature and rain makes for a good year with some plants such as PG hydrangea. Blooming on new wood usually makes them less susceptible to damage from late frosts on the buds.

  26. Racquel :
    September 15, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Some people swear Lily of the Valley is a nuisance plant and I can’t even get it to stay in my garden. Maybe it prefers cooler climates. I like those berries on it. I just love the way Hydrangeas flowers fade from shades of cream to mauve in the fall.

  27. Northern Shade :
    September 15, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Racquel, I find that the lily of the valley does spread, but it is easy to pull back. In my garden, the annoying plants are the ones that grow back repeatedly during the summer, after I’ve pulled them out, but lily of the valley does not do that. Also, if lily of the valley spreads to the lawn, I just mow it over and it is gone. The annoying plants are Aegopodium (goutweed) and Achillea (yarrow), which were left by the previous owner. They spread into the lawn, and I can behead them every week with the lawn mower, but they just grow back.
    Lily of the valley laughs at the cold, drought and shade. I would place it in the hardy group, but not nuisance group.
    I’m really enjoying the many Hydrangea flowers this fall, as they turn on their fall charm.

  28. Katarina (Roses and stuff) :
    September 15, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Your pictures are great! The berries of Lily of the valley are orange-red here as well. I wonder who could be eating them – they are poisinous, aren’t they? The leaves of the birch trees are turning yellow but a lot of rose shrubs are still in bloom. I just love September!
    /Katarina

  29. Northern Shade :
    September 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Katarina, I don’t know if the berries are poisonous to all animals or not. The squirrels have been very busy gathering the large spruce cones from my trees. They run along my fence top with a cone in their mouth that is almost as long as the squirrel body, minus the fluffy tail.
    We are having the best of both worlds this week. The fall changes are visible, but we are having our late summer temperatures with highs of 25C (77F). It is a glorious time to be outside.

  30. Kathleen :
    September 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Wow, that ostrich fern is fantastic! I’m not familiar with it but I want to get that way. There are signs of fall in my garden but I’m trying to “ignore” them!!!

  31. Northern Shade :
    September 15, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Kathleen, the urge to hold on to summer is strong, especially knowing what comes after fall.

  32. Amy :
    September 15, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Lovely photos! We have plenty of fall signs around here. I saw a lovely sight today just up the street – bright red leaves of virginia creeper climbing many feet up a fir tree, with a crabapple full of yellow leaves just in front.

  33. Northern Shade :
    September 15, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Amy, what a pretty sight that must make, those yellow and red leaves are classic fall colours. It sounds like you are a little farther ahead than us. However, the squirrel that’s stashing spruce cones might know better than me how far our season has advanced. After a couple of warm days, I start to think we’re back in summer.

  34. Lisa at Greenbow :
    September 20, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Gosh NS I have never seen berries on my Lily of the Valley. I will have to go out and check it. It grows in such an inhospitable area I am always pleased that it even grows. I will keep a more watchful eye on it in the future to hope to see some red berries.

  35. Northern Shade :
    September 20, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Lisa, quite a few of the lily of the valley have the berries, although they are disappearing. Do you get a good amount of blooms from your plants?
    Like your plants, mine are very tolerant too. In fact, sometimes when I’ve rearranged a bed, and I’m not sure where to put the lily of the valley, I’ve left them out, with roots exposed. I’ve then transplanted them a week later, and they seem to do fine. I don’t mean to be a lily of the valley meanie, but I have taken advantage of their good natured stoicism.

  36. Monica :
    September 20, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Beautiful autumn colours! My garden is turning yellowish red now and a lot of the perennials are drying up and getting brown. But I still get some zucchini from the zucchiniplants!

    /Monica

  37. Northern Shade :
    September 20, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Monica, zucchini plants are very generous, giving more than enough for tasty zucchini muffins and bread.
    I still have a mixture of summer colours and fall changes. The maple tree is colouring, but the willow tree is still a vivid green. The bellflowers and phlox are still blooming, but other perennials are turning yellow.

  38. Jan :
    September 21, 2008 at 4:58 am

    Your pictures really show that fall is just around the corner. Here, in the Deep South, there are very few signs that summer is coming to an end, though I am sure it won’t be long before we, too, notice summer has really ended.

    Jan
    Always Growing

  39. Northern Shade :
    September 21, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Jan, each day there is a little more red, yellow, orange and brown being added to the landscape. We have actually been having beautiful temperatures during the daytime, but the cooler nights, or diminishing light hours are still signaling Autumn to the plants.

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