Summer or Fall Garden?

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.


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

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?

35 thoughts on “Summer or Fall Garden?”

  1. You paint such a lovely picture with your words I hardly need pictures, but ooh how I do enjoy the dainty golden yellow dicentra picture, too. The blues of all your bell flowers must glow beautifully amidst the autumn colours and light this time of year.

  2. Shauna, thanks. The Dicentra are really glowing under the willow shade, and despite turning colour, the leaves have been holding on for the past two weeks. All of the bellflowers are still flowering, and most of them still look like they did in July.

  3. Here in London, it feels as if we’re having a gradual transition between fall and summer! After weeks of horrible weather, we’ve finally had some sun. But I think your post sums up this time of year perfectly: it’s almost as if we get the best of two seasons at once. I can almost smell those mushrooms.

  4. Victoria, this week we had summer weather too. As I reclined on my lounger in the backyard, I was looking at the willow leaves from underneath with half closed eyes. It was definitely a summer experience. Then a squirrel ran through the branches with a cone in its mouth. Nope, it’s definitely fall, and I should be busy getting ready too.

    Racquel, I often wish that our gardening season would last longer like yours.

  5. A beautiful post…I could see it all as if I were walking with you! I love the blues of your campanula and the yellowing leaves of the dicentra. Fall is here just a little bit, but the highs during the day are in the 80s! ! The Virginia Creeper is creeping toward red and the dogwoods leaves are yellowing. Gail

  6. Gail, thank you. The Virginia creeper must be responding more to the shortening daylight hours than the temperatures, unless it gets a chill when it falls below 90 F. My maple leaves are turning yellow. It doesn’t get the brilliant red colours of some maples.

  7. How wonderful your garden must be with these jewels in it. The sky blue of the campanulas look so inviting, if only we could shrink ourselves down to fairy size and nestle into the bells. Your foliage is exquisite also, the dicentra and heuchera so perfect. Thanks for sharing them.


  8. Your early-fall garden looks beautiful. The bellflowers are gorgeous, and I just love the yellow dicentra foliage. Even here in zone 5 my cimicifuga (same kind as yours,) has yet to bloom before the first frost. I do see it blooming in other gardens around here already. Judging by the size of the buds on mine, there probably will be no blooms this year either. I’m still hoping though!

  9. Thanks Linda.
    I’m thinking of trying some C. racemosa to see if they bloom a little earlier in the fall, maybe one with purple foliage. Mine might be extra late because it is in medium shade too, but that’s the whole point of Cimicifuga.
    We’re supposed to get our first frost in a couple of days, but the buds don’t look plump enough to be close to opening, and I can’t exactly cover up a 1.5 m (5 foot) plant that has thin wands. Shape up guys. There are some hydrangeas that have been calling out for a place in my garden.

  10. Francis, the harebell and fairy thimble bellflowers would be prime habitat for fairies. You can almost picture one lounging on the long thin leaf of the Pulmonaria under the bells, like I lounge on my chair under the willow. However Pease-blossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed do not come to wait on me, like they do for the Fairy Queen.

  11. Beautiful prose and pictures, thank you for sharing.
    I think I am in the camp of “celebrating fall”. We have been to garden centres the last two weekends looking at all the shrubs in their fall colours and it has been glorious. Of course, one can’t resist the sale prices either :-)

  12. Ms. S, it’s a great time to check out the fall colours of new shrub choices. Did you pick out any in particular yet, or narrow down your selection? You have to love the fall bargains. Now I have to get them in the ground before the frost. If I wait too long the ground will start to harden.

  13. I know what I want for next year, and that is to track down some of the hardy roses that were on someone else’s cart. There was a double reddish one with lots of medium sized blooms and a yellow one that was so pretty. I know, I know, to covet is a terrible thing :-)

  14. Ms. S, Some perennials don’t look like much in their pots, and we buy them on faith, that they will look better when they are in the ground, growing and blooming. However, roses in bloom are gorgeous already, and very tempting.

  15. Katarina, it is a beautiful change in nature. I love walking long, scuffling my feet in the leaves. In the river valley that runs through my city, the trees are golden with the changing leaves.

  16. I love your campanula. They are so delicate, they do indeed look like fairy flowers. All your photos are wonderful. I enjoyed them very much.

    I’m adding your blog to my list so that I can come back to visit you often.

  17. A visit to your blog is like visiting another gardening world for me. Your plants would hate my garden. While my garden is sunny, yellow, and red, yours is cool, blue, and green. I can feel the shade. I look forward to seeing more!

  18. Thanks Marnie, flowers with little blue bells call out to me. The short ones work well underneath and around shrubs or tall perennials, so I always manage to squeeze a few more into the garden.

    Becky, gardens do have different moods, don’t they, influenced by the habitat, sun exposure, and moisture of the area, as well as the individual quirks of the gardener. I love looking at all the different gardening blogs and seeing the unique gardens, each one reflecting something of the gardener.

  19. I think that I will celebrate fall…it can be as exciting and seeing things come back in Spring. The Dicentra makes a very nice contrast – the yellow give this plant another dimension through the seasons. That’s also why I like the Heuchera…we have a couple and I like how they have changed in color almost every month.

  20. ChrisND, it is exciting to see the new changes. The Dicentra is much lighter than anything around it, so it’s a focal point on that side of the garden now.
    I’d like to plant some other types of Heuchera, and see how they do for hardiness. This grouping loves the location, and has really flourished this season.

  21. My goodness Northern Shade .. I can’t believe how many of the same plants we share in our gardens : )
    You arranged the pictures and narrative so nicely in this post .. it was like a story.
    I love my little campanulas too … they put up with a lot of neglect and yet still look lovely. My favorite is the waterfall one too .. my little bells were labeled Scottish Thimbles when I bought them .. and it is so true about how they arrange themselves around other plants. I have White Pearl as well and I’m hoping it has taken to a new location I put it in around a month ago .. my garden is becoming more and more a “shade” garden too. Little Lamb has that gorgeous deep pink but if you get a chance to have Pinky Winky you will be amazed with how deep a pink it goes .. I have to do a post on the pictures I took a few days ago with that.
    Wonderful wistful post on the changing seasons : )

  22. Joy, thank you. We do have many plants in common, and they often seem to bloom around the same time, despite a couple of zones difference.
    I’ve sometimes seen the C. rotundifolia called “blue bells of Scotland” as well. I love them for their wildflower look, and the way it is so easy to squeeze them in between almost any plants.
    However, the ‘Blue Waterfall’ bellflower has really won my heart for its champion blooming and willingness to put up with adverse conditions. The one tucked in behind the hydrangea, against the fence is about 45 cm (1.5 feet) square, and it still has about 100 flowers on it at the tail end of September. I have about a dozen other blue waterfalls in various conditions that are all doing well too.
    I think my White Pearl Cimicifuga is just too poky to bloom this year. I can fantasize about the first frost being delayed until December this year, but in reality we have just been very fortunate not to have any yet. He’s probably regretting ever moving to Edmonton.
    I adore your ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea, despite the fact it sounds like the latest Teletubby.

  23. What beautiful photos. I can see why your blog got a Blotanical nomination. Congratulations! I appreciated this post because I am just realizing that my garden is slipping towards being good during rose season, and not too interesting until fall and you’ve give me a lot to think about.

  24. Commonweeder, thank you for your kind words. It is always useful finding plants that look good all season long, or are interesting in more than one season.
    The next six months are a challenge. Now what goes with white? How about another conifer.

  25. Thanks for wellcomming me on / in the Botanical bloggs. I have been visiting your blogg and the pulmonaria I saw, I just love. You must excuse my English. It is almost ten years since I practiced it in real life.

  26. Birgitta, I can understand your English writing just fine, thanks for visiting. I really like that Pulmonaria ‘Samourai’ too. It is a cross between Pulmonaria ‘Majeste’ and another one. The leaves are a little longer and narrower than P. ‘Majeste’. I’ve been very happy that the silver leaves have kept in perfect shape all summer. Even now at the end of September there are no holes, browning or decay on them anywhere.

  27. We definitly have more fall then summer, but there are still a lot of flowers. :) This weekend I’ve planted the last perennials for the year and I also made some autumn decorations…I guess I’ve accepted the fact that the summer is over. :) Love that Hydrangea paniculata!

  28. I have the Waterfall Campanula, too, and I get a huge flush of bloom in the spring. If I don’t deadhead them, they are done for the year. I would love to know your secret to keep them blooming all summer – maybe it’s just to hot here in central Maryland.

  29. Karin A, I have a number of perennials to plant in the next couple of days. I don’t normally plant so much this late in the season. However, I’m lucky the next week is supposed to give us unusual summer temperatures. I hope the new plants get settled before the ground gets cold.
    H. paniculata ‘Little Lamb’ is still looking good. For such a little shrub, it has very large blooms.

    Kim, perhaps it is the cooler summers that keep the Campanula ‘Blue Waterfall’ going. I really don’t do anything special to it, and I don’t deadhead it like the other Campanula because there are just too many flowers. I am quite amazed that they have as many blooms as they do, because I mostly have it in pretty shady locations too. Most of them have over 50 blooms on them right now, and the best have about 100. Which is not bad for a little ground cover.

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