GBFD October ’16

Christina at Creating my own Garden of the Hesperides is the host of a monthly look at the importance of foliage in the garden, and for some reason this celebration always sneaks up on me.  Fortunately this month it falls on a weekend, and a rainy one at that, so rather than start projects inside and waste the weekend doing all those boring things which end up on a to-do list, I’m going to sit and relax with a coffee while reviewing the beautiful week that was.

autumn colors pennsylvania

The view out the back door.  My camera must be an optimist since it really is much rainier and gloomier than this photo would suggest.

We were back in shorts and T-shirts this week as summer returned for a few days.  The ground is on the dry side but it was still perfect for just puttering around and thinking about getting ready for winter.  I should be doing more than just thinking though since each year I seem to add more and more stuff which needs winter protection.  Fortunately the first step was taken and all the succulents have moved up under the back porch for a quick look-over before moving on.  A few go into the garage, a few go near a window in the basement, but they all go into a cool spot which won’t freeze over the next several months.

succulent containers

Succulents can be dangerous.  They come in cute tiny pots and many root off the smallest bit of stem or leaf, so before you know it there’s a collection. 

I kill plenty of these each winter and these survivors can all handle the conditions which I put them through.  Cool, dry, and dimly lit… although I would give them more light if I could…  A little shot of water maybe once every two months (if I remember) and if they make it good.  These do, and in the low autumn light I love the way their various foliage shapes and colors go together.

succulent containers

Again I need to replant, they never seem to change yet suddenly all have grown!

The light of autumn has also been very kind to the foliage and flowers of the grasses.  Their colors just fit at this time of year and it’s kind of a sunset of the season with all their reds and pinks and yellows.

pepermintstick arundo flower

I moved this ‘Peppermint stick’ Arundo donax this spring and it’s been much happier in this more open, better watered spot.  Next year I’ll pull out the floppy Miscanthus from its right and hopefully figure out how best to complement the strong variegation of this grass.  

Another grass which is doing well is this spiteful clump of pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris).  It’s been doing particularly well this year and I bet it’s because I evicted its two lazy neighbors and told this clump it would be next if it doesn’t shape up.  They always look miserable for months and then only flower just in time to get killed by frost.  I think they’re just not well-suited to this latitude and I’m trying out a selection called ‘Fast forward’ which is supposed to bloom earlier… but so far it’s been on exactly the same time table.  Maybe next year after it’s become better established, but this spring I was just happy enough it survived its late autumn planting.

pink muhly grass

Pink muhly grass flowering in the last few days of frost free weather.  It will still be nice enough after the cold comes, but the pink color will fade to white.

The foliage on the muhly grass does absolutely nothing for me and even with this late season show I already had plans to replace it.  To this end I bought another grass, a giant bluestem (Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’) with purple summer foliage and bright red autumn color.  My fingers are crossed and so far so good, but I’ve heard stories that it’s a bit difficult to establish from a later planting.

pink muhly grass

A close-up of the pink muhly grass with a few blades of ‘Red October’ coming up behind.  I love it so far!

Autumn foliage is showing up all along the street as well.  The summer lushness has faded and things are beginning to call it a year.

limelight hydrangea in autumn

The dogwoods have taken on their russet red shades, and there’s no more pristine white on the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea.  Such a nice pink tint on the hydrangea is something I haven’t experienced before, usually the flowers  just brown off in the dry heat of late summer.

Also calling it a year is the front border bed.  Because of the dry summer I gave up on it in July but it still looks fine even without the annuals I usually add for some extra color.  Less work is always a good thing, so maybe just maybe I’ll do the same thing next year…. unless I dig it all up and replant everything.  Why keep things simple?

tiger eyes autumn color

A calming border of blue fescue grass and a jolt of autumn color from the ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac.  I wish I had a hedge or wall blocking out the rest of the neighborhood, but that’s just not how we roll here in suburbia.

I better stop here.  The sun is out again yet there’s a bitter wind blowing until tomorrow morning.  I suppose I can take today off from the garden but tomorrow if the sun shines I’m sure I’ll be out there again.  In the meantime please consider giving Christina a visit to see what others around the globe are enjoying in their gardens.  Enjoy!

21 comments on “GBFD October ’16

  1. Christina says:

    Great post Frank, the light in all your photographs is so special in this post. We had a very cold day today here. I didn’t like it at all.

    • bittster says:

      I’ve been lucky in that my free time just happens to be when the light is right.
      Today there was no right light. There was little light at all and I wasn’t happy thinking about the dark days which December will bring.

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Your gardens are looking very seasonal. I’m digging out my pink muhly this year. Yours looks wonderful but mine just turned brown. The hydrangea is lovely.

    • bittster says:

      Too bad. I would have thought he muhly grass would do perfectly for you, yet I guess we’ll both be digging it out. One or so weeks of pretty is just not enough for a grass which looks to be in pain the rest of the year.

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Looks like things are a-changin’. I’ve often admired muhly grass, but it isn’t hardy here, but it sounds like both you and Susie don’t think highly of it. A lilac can get away with 2 weeks of show, but a grass, I think not!
    We’ve had rain and wind since Friday, so things are looking frightfully dull and dormant. A tad depressing. I always start thinking about wintering in Mexico about this time of year. 😉

    • bittster says:

      Wintering in Mexico doesn’t sound like the worst thing considering the rainy, gloomy day we had Thursday….
      Things are taking a turn here as well. We had a similar rain and wind combo and it ripped off all the early foliage, but this morning it looks like a new wave of color is taking place. I’m ok with that! Between the new color and a green freshly cut lawn (finished in the dark last night) I’m practically excited about fall. -For a few days at least… until they change the clocks and it rains again 🙂

  4. Steve says:

    Some great colour coming in the photos. Loved the use of grasses.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Steve. Grasses do really well for me in my drought prone, sunny garden. They recover from the kind of conditions which make the other perennials look like death warmed over.

  5. rusty duck says:

    Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ looks like a gem. What a great colour.

  6. Cathy says:

    Loads of lovely autumn colour Frank, and sunshine too! It has been rainy here all week, but I did manage to get those last bulbs in. 😉

    • bittster says:

      …and I still have yet to start any large scale bulb planting. This weekend of course 🙂 Now that the summer plants are safely indoors I’m sure I’ll jump right into the bulbs!

  7. Pauline says:

    Love your first photo, so much autumn colour! I brought my succulents in a while back, they do grow while you’re not looking don’t they! This is a wonderful time of year- enjoy!

    • bittster says:

      I was disgusted by autumn last week but now that the sun is out again it’s almost an enjoyable experience. I’m still not thrilled by the approach of winter, but cyclamen and snowdrops make it much more bearable 🙂

  8. Chloris says:

    You have amazing autumn colour. I love your pink muhly grass. And the ‘Red October’ is stunning, I have never seen it here. Succulents! Oh dear, I have the same problem and every autumn it gets worse.

    • bittster says:

      I just bought a new succulent yesterday. It look so harmless and small, I’m sure it will take up next to no additional space.
      The autumn colors have been nice this year, and I halfway enjoyed the season. I wish I hadn’t been as lazy as I was, but you can’t second guess time spent relaxing.

  9. Fall is very pretty at your homestead.

    • bittster says:

      It’s no Niagara but the maples do pay back in color a little of the water and nutrients they steal from that end of the garden every other week of the year…

  10. Stunning color! Love the intensity of ‘Red October’ and the pink muhly grass. Making notes for the future… 😉

    • bittster says:

      Hopefully ‘Red October’ works out here, I’m also loving the color, and did you notice where I mentioned it has a dark purple late summer color as well? If it lives up to the hype it will be a great new addition. I’ll keep you up to date!

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