It has been said both ways. A summer drought will make for less color in the deciduous trees come fall. Or, heavy summer rains will ruin the fall show for the leaf peepers, those travelers who come great distances to places like Asheville, North Carolina or Gatlinburg, Tennessee to see the trees do their changing thing. Every year here in southeast Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, the color is spectacular. To our eyes, anyway, drought or wet. The largest trees, predominately maples of various sorts are borrowed views, such as the shower of gold behind our front garden winterberries, Ilex verticillata ‘Sparkleberry’ and ‘Winter Gold’.
Our trees are all small young’uns, in the ground no more than the fourteen years we have owned this property, most only planted in the ten years we have lived here ourselves. Japanese maples are beloved, several survived the killing combo of 2007, late prolonged single digit temperatures after the trees had leafed out in April followed by extreme drought conditions for the rest of the year. Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’ above lived through that epoch.
We often refer to the magnificent giant maple that was growing here when the Fairegarden was begun, Ferngully, click here-Ferngully if you are interested in hearing the story or want to refresh your memory. There are similar trees still in the neighborhood, including one in the yard of the house directly behind us, at the top of the slope. We call it Ferngully Sibling. It is massive and a haven for many forms of wildlife. We love the view of it from the lazyboy in the addition, through the glass sliding doors. The camera is wielded from that seat, photos taken through the dirty glass, of this stately tree.
Another small tree with much interest to offer a garden is the witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’. Click here-Faire Diane to see her glorious winter blooming. Diane also offers showy fall foliage color, even though it appears that some creature finds her leaves tasty. The buds are showing the promise of her splendid flowers even now.
Sort of a tree, sort of a shrub is the native Eastern Wahoo, Euonymus purpurea. It is also known as Spindle Tree and Indian Arrow Wood. The leaves become a vivid pink in fall after a nodescript summer of green.
Oakleaf hydrangea, H. quercifolia ‘Alison’ is a large cultivar. This is another native to our area and laughs at the drought in a way the H. macrophyllas can only dream of. The large, heavily textured leaves turn nicely before dropping off to reveal cinnamon hued velvety stems in winter. This should be added to the list of plants with four season interest.
Though it is difficult to choose a favorite, and that kind of thing is discouraged as there are too many wonderful trees available, it is the native dogwood, Cornus florida that holds the honor. This pink flowered variety is planted next to the garage, shown with the borrowed view of Ferngully Sibling at the top of the hill.
We love everything about these trees, including the formed buds of next years flowers, sculptural minarets of magic. To see what these will look like next spring, click here-Pink Dogwood Winter.
There are six pink and red flowered dogwoods that were among the very first plantings after the slope was cleared and terraced by the backhoe brought in to dig the foundation of the first renovation in 2000. Three of these trees were dug and moved by that machine for transplanting on the slope since they had been planted along the fence line where construction was begun. Three more were added on the other side of the concrete steps that we made, for balance. It was the initial design we sketched up for the slope, with the knot garden at top and the shed moved to the side from behind the main house. The trees survived that move and are growing larger each year after what seemed a very slow start. Take note of the large bare branched tree in the back. That is Ferngully Sibling, whose leaves all fell in one swoop after a storm passed through with high winds. We worry for the health of it.
We end with a peek again at the dogwood along the side of the garage, but a hopeless stage hog seems to be muscling out the tree for our attention. Pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris and its new BFF Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’ are still offering their best side for the camera woman.
Fellow Tennessee garden blogger Dave of The Home Garden has a yearly roundup of fall foliage posts from all over the world. Check out his blog to see the rest of the stories.