Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the Garden: Fall Color

Despite the chilly rainy days we've been having in east central Illinois, the fall color this year is really fantastic all over town. Champaign-Urbana is a town with a LOT of mature trees in a wide range of species, and it's quite a show. In our garden, there are a couple of show-offs that I wanted to share with you all. In the southeast corner of the south yard (protected from the cold drying winter winds from north and west) are two Japanese maples, one with a single trunk and another variety with a branched fan shape. Both were planted as quite small starts about 14 years ago. In the summer, their leaves are a lovely green, but in spring and, especially, in fall, they turn flame red and almost glow when the sun is out.

They are lovely little trees that aren't necessarily easy to grow here in the Midwest. Out in Oregon, where my sister and mother live, there are zillions of varieties of Japanese maples and they are common in private and public gardens. I also have a small very cut-leaf type in the north yard (sheltered by a circle of arbor vitae shrubs) that I found in a drugstore parking lot, its pot tipped on its side, a few years back. It suffered a major break a while ago when the big locust lost a large branch in a summer storm, but it is still with us, thank goodness. The two in the south are so bright that they even make a showing from some distance, as in this photo taken from the north end of the east garden.

Across the street from us, there's a larger Japanese maple that was planted when the neighbor's son was born and he's in his late twenties or early thirties now, I think. It shows how nicely the red foliage contrasts with a nearby birch.
   It is interesting to see what a range of plants provide fall color. The euonymous so-called "burning bush" shrubs all over town are brilliant this year, and the sugar maples are yellow and orange. The sweetgum trees have a riot of color in their foliage, including purple! Oaks, including the pin oak in our northwest garden, come in many shades of coppery orange and brown. But surprisingly, some of the perennials also show color.

For example, hydrangeas can take on a lot of subtle coloration. There's a hydrangea in our north yard called "Blue Billow" that has some lovely pale shades of pink and yellow this fall. I notice that many hostas' leaves turn a bright yellow, especially the really big, wide-leafed kind. Another surprise this fall was the two Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa varieties) in our north garden. Last year, they were touched with bits of red and orange, especially at the very top of the small trees. But this year the color goes all the way down and encompasses all of the leaves to a greater or less extent. The older of the two trees has grown quite a bit this year, too.

I took two photos of it this past weekend -- one up fairly close and another back far enough to show the color on the large hostas that are planted in a circle at the base of the dogwood. The Chinese dogwoods bloom later than the "regular" (i.e., Cornus florida) type here, which often means their blossoms are saved from late-spring frosts. The flowers are pure white and quite large and they seem to lie horizontally along the branches, so it's an amazing effect, sort of like snow on the boughs.

I hope you enjoy this little peek at fall color in my garden!

1 comment:

  1. I love Fall ... The crisp air, fallen leaves ... Your pictures are so wonderful.