It is going to be a good fall foliage year, the local newspaper says so. The key seems to be dry weather and cold temperatures. We did have the dry, earlier and there has been some cold, but the peak here in southeast Tennessee, the time when tourists flood the mountain hotels and clog the mountain roadways is the last week in October. Things seem to be early this year, however, for whatever reason. Follow along with the Fairegarden, if you please, as we join in Pam at Digging’s monthly Foliage Follow Up. Above: The sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum, Rhododendron ‘Cannon’s Double’ and the still green but turning Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alison’ with the metal sculpture ‘Let It Rain’.
Moving in for a closer look, the Euphorbia clan, specificially Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon’ seem to be able to thrive in the weird conditions along the block wall that holds back the earth from tumbling into the building where we live. The latter has colonized the area and spilled over, seeding into the gravel path below. The conditions are weird because after the wall was constructed, in 2001, there was a gap between the structure and the solid red clay that had been cut straight down out of the hillside by the backhoe. Feeling the purse pinch by that time, as the renovation came to an end, instead of filling that prime planting space with good topsoil, we tossed leftover building materials, wood and pieces of broken block behind the wall, on top of the large drainage tube. The soil to cover this mess was taken from the pile leftover from the excavation for the addition, nearly solid red clay. The whole thing was mulched and looked great until planting was attempted and the shovel struck the sticky goo. We have spent years adding compost to try and rectify the situation and lost many, many, way too many plants that could not adapt to the nice on top, horrible on the bottom conditions. Euphorbias laugh in the face of this adversity, it is happily reported.
In front of the house, the soil conditions are much better. Originally the lawn, there is more moisture here since it is the lowest lying area of the property. Mulched several times after the grass was removed, with trees and shrubs planted along with evergreen groundcovers, bulbs and easy care perennials, the front yard offers some of the best we have to offer here. Deciduous shrubs with colorful winter stems, various Cornus sericea ssp. brighten with buttery leaves tinged in pink. This is Cornus sericea (syn. sanguinea?) ‘Arctic Sun’. Don’t tell the other Twiggys, but it is my favorite.
Moving to the property of the house next door that was purchased after the main house renovation was well underway, oh to have a do-over on that, where the house was demolished to build the garage and extend the living space, the soil is fabulous. The best of the best is under the deceased and now gone, but not forgotten red maple known with affection as Ferngully. (Click here to read the story about it.) This is where the woodland plantings are doing better now that the Ferngully replacement has finally grown enough to give more shade to the area. Hellebore orientalis, Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ and Spigelia marilandica complement each other as the two deciduous perennials shade to buttery hues as the chlorophyll recedes from the leaves.
“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”, a favorite line from Bob Dylan’s , is appropriate to describe the color change of Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’. Think of it as adapted to “You don’t need a weatherman to know when the temps, they are a’changin'”. (My apologies, Bob.) Golden in the warmth, scarlet red in the cold, the transition period of the heather-weatherperson shows a bit of both right now.