October 29, 2010

October Surprises

Ever since my firstborn showed up in October, a month before his due date, I have found myself surprised by what each October has to offer.  It's been 30 years since that first wondrous surprise, and he's grown now.  But I still am easily startled by the transformations of October.

From the first early summer-like days of the month to the cold end of the month when winter can be smelled in the air, everything changes.
The fothergilla is just coloring up, beneath a redbud still in its full green cloak in early October.
The same scene along the walk just a few weeks later.  The redbud is a timid lime yellow, but the fothergillas are bold and bright.
The wild and floppy young bottlebrush buckeyes, Aesculus parviflora, turn yellow with a real sense of drama at the end of October, and they ramp up the weak early light of an autumn morning.  They are nothing like Margaret Roach's aesculus at A Way to Garden (3rd slide in her slideshow), but mine are still a startling sunshine yellow .
These are young shrubs, just in their third year in my garden, growing all helter skelter right now, but they will get large and moundy, and hopefully be consistently yellow in the fall.
And what is this?  A wayward iris, blooming at Halloween.  Scary!
'Immortality'. She bloomed in spring, and now again in late October
This is also a little scary: the buttery golden hue of a Hamamelis vernalis, spring witch hazel, is at odds with the rosy soft apricot of the Sheffield Pink mums. 
It was a lovely combination when the hazel's leaves remained a mid-green, but suddenly the witch hazel went golden in late October and the combination got weird.
 I'm working on creating a destination view as you walk down the bluestone path along the side of the house.  I was surprised to see the late fall vignette is kind of nice!  It's getting there.
That maple in the distance is the focal point of this sheltered walkway.  In another few days it will be fiery red.  Stay tuned and I will post a picture of it in its glory in November --- even though it's called 'October Glory' (Acer rubrum).
All of a sudden Amsonia hubrichtii is a flashy yellow, a beacon, a headlight, a bright beam from the front of the house.  Amsonias take three years to establish, and this second-season one is in the toddler stage, flopping all over the ground having a tantrum.  I think of amsonias as shrubs because they take a few years to grow to maturity, they have a lovely shape over winter even though there is no woody branch structure, and unlike most perennials, they color up in fall.
Amsonia hubrichtiis have a sticky white sap that is just awful when it gets on your hands.  To take this picture I had to stake the plant upright a little, and yuck .... sap all over my hands.
Another amsonia, but in a paler soft yellow.  This one is 'Blue Ice' and it is a small mounder beneath the spreading doublefile viburnum 'Shasta'.  A red patch of fleeceflower 'Dimity' shelters below the amsonia.  I just love perennials that have fall color.
The flowering dogwood at the corner of the garage amazes me every time I turn into our driveway. 
Dogwood flowers are an icon of spring, but its best season may be late October when the leaves turn a saturated crimson.
October surprises me.  Suddenly new vistas appear, colored in a whole different way.  Attention shifts.  Nothing looks the same, and familiar parts of my garden and my world are changed, altered in dramatic ways.

And 30 years ago this month my life was altered dramatically on one glorious October day.


  1. Hi Laurrie, what a beautiful context you have for October. :)

    I love your yellow and reds together. It is amazing how our gardens turn into their very own design in answer to nature. Lovely.

  2. You have gorgeous fall color up there in Conneticut! The dogwood looks beautiful. Often here it will turn more of a very dark (even blackish) red. The color of the Doublefile Viburum is gorgeous too. I have one of those but I don't think mine turns any color at all. And the piece de resistance is the Fothergilla!

  3. Such a lovely Autumn garden ... the colours!! Dogwoods, Amsonia, Viburnum, Maple, Hamamelis ... these are all plants that I don't have any experience with and their colours are beautiful. I also just adore that white Iris ... 'Immortality' seems to suit. My favourite shot has to be the one of the sheltered walkway ... that really does look terrific!

    I'll bet that first born of yours provided lots of great surprises over the years!

  4. Laurrie, Your gardens looks so colorful. I love the contrast of the yellow amsonia foliage and the red leaves of the japanese maple.

    October certainly is an interesting month here in CT. I was doing the same thing today - taking photos of my garden since there seems to have been such a drastic change this week. Even after the crazy summer we had, the fall colors have been simply stunning.

  5. Oh my Laurrie, You're having a spectacular fall! Fothergilla and amsonia are on my wish list, and you're reminding me why. I've added 'Immortality' this year and hope for some fall blooming in years to come...

  6. My oldest son is 30 years old, too. His birthday is in July. I took him to the mountains for vacation in October of his first year, and the fall colors were spectacular that year.

    Your fall colors are wonderful! I really like the bluestone walk. I admire the mix of various textures, as well as colors, in your garden.

  7. Garden Ms. S, Thanks! The reds and yellows play so well together.

    Sweetbay, I admire what you can grow so lushly in the south, but nothing beats us up here for fall color!

    Bernie, Thanks for admiring my plants that are so strange to your eye in your part of the world. Happy Spring to you!

    Debbie, I too feared that fall displays would abandon us after our horrid summer. Sounds like you have some great color in your garden too.

    Cyndy, I can imagine how nice fothergilla would look at the edge of your woodland. And amsonia in your garden would be lovely. Must get.

    Deborah, Thanks. (Do you ever wonder how you got to be the mother of a 30 year old??)

  8. This is one of the most beautiful months to me. I love fall. You have the most beautiful garden. Not scary at all.

  9. Lisa, thank you so much!

  10. Laurrie,
    Thanks for sharing all these great photos. I really love the Fothergilla at this time of the year, even better now than when it is in bloom. While I have been lukewarm on Amsonia, your composition with the Japanese Maple is getting me to change my mind.

  11. Curtis, I agree about the fothergilla's charms... the flowers not so much but the fall color, yes! People do rave about the blooms, but I find them odd looking. I hope you try one of the amsonias, they are slow to get going but very rewarding.


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