Foliage Follow-Up-October 2011

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’.

On the slope behind the main house, it is the dogwoods, Cornus florida that light up with brilliance first in fall.

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.

Emerging ferniness from a volunteer bronze fennel, Foeniculum vulgare in the gravel pathway, (why oh why always in the path, never in the garden bed, she asks plaintively) is geometrically sublime.

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”, a favorite line from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, 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.


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12 Responses to Foliage Follow-Up-October 2011

  1. Mary Silvia says:

    Oh Frances – gotta love that Dylan quote

    Hi Mary, thanks. Glad to see another Dylan fan.

  2. Gail says:

    Frances, Love Bob D! May have to come back later for a listen to the video~After coffee. Your garden is looking fantastic~Love the second photo. The dogwoods are a perfect accent for the pink muhly and the Blood Grass. Just delightful. I think my garden needs a drainage hole! It has nice on top with sticky below with ginormous hunks of limestone….It kills euphorbia~ Have a sweet day~I do believe the weather is getting ready to change~I see mid thirties forecast. xoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks for visiting before coffee! The garden does look good right now. 18 inches of rain in late summer is the key. Now if only we could duplicate that every year. I killed three plants of Ascot Rainbow this summer, it was too dry to get them going, even with extra water. Note to self…plant in fall! The ups and downs of the temps continues here, too. We may set a record high today, huge drop later in the week.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your garden certainly is taking on that fall cloak of color.

    It is, Lisa. Fall is racing along here at breakneck speed. Some trees are already bare of leaves, quite a change from the normal lollygagging leaf turning and falling.

  4. Layanee says:

    Your foliage is looking bright. I fear we will have sporadic color. It should be here now but hurricane Irene did a number on leaves and shrubs. There is always next year.

    Thanks Layanee. I think Irene saved our garden from the severe drought we were experiencing, so sorry it gave your garden a setback. Next year will always be the best year ever!

  5. commonweeder says:

    We are not having the best foliage season this year – too much rain and not enough cool tempertures. And this weekend we had lots of wind. I did visit a neighbor with a large collection of heaths and heathers and I am now using Firefly for my wallpaper. For a while.

    Hi Pat, sorry to hear about your foliage season. Thinking of a large collection of heaths and heathers does sound appealing though. Firefly is a good one to gaze upon.

  6. Wendy says:

    Beautiful! Do you know if you cut back the Ascot Rainbow if it will re-grow the stems? I planted one in spring and it grew leggy quickly and all the leaves withered except at the very top of each stem. It looks rather So I thought to cut it back but I’m so afraid that will just completely end its’ life! Any advice?


    Thanks Wendy. I don’t know why your Euphorbia would not regrow, as long as it is alive. They can get leggy, but I have never cut mine. I might advise to let it get through the winter, then cut if you must. I am afraid to cut, too!

  7. Rose says:

    Frances, your garden is a vision of loveliness no matter the season! I loved the story about the area where the euphorbia grow. My butterfly garden is located where the old house here once stood, and I think when my in-laws tore down the house, they buried most of it in this area. Every so often when I dig deeply, I find the strangest things. I’ve added some compost to help the soil, but not nearly enough. Thankfully, the tough natives growing there don’t seem to mind.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen this Dylan video before–what fun! Bob looks so young!

    Hi Rose, thanks. Many construction areas bury the leftovers, we just hope they are deep enough to allow enough decent soil for things to grow over top of them. And looking at Bob, he is a child! HA

  8. Leslie says:

    The look of fall is showing up! Love the large view photo.

    Hi Leslie, thanks for visiting. This is the best time of year for a decent shot of that part of the back yard, good light, lots of interest, fall foliage and pink muhly. A good combination.

  9. Hi Frances,
    I hope your early fall doesn’t lead to an early winter. I don’t know how cold it gets in Tennessee, though. I need to get out and do some preparation for our killing freeze that is expected in a couple days. I see it just went up from 43 to 45 degrees.

    I enjoyed your foliage, especially the euphorbia clan. I liked your Bob Dylan reference, too. LOL

    Hi Sue, thanks. It gets cold here, well below freezing with snow sometimes. We have another week or two before the first killing frost, but then it will warm up again and be nice until Thanksgiving, when the family comes. After Thanksgiving it will warm up again. That’s the way of it here! Glad you like our boy, Bob!

  10. I knew I would see fabulous foliage here, and I was right. Interesting about the conditions your euphorbia collection is growing in. I tried 3 ‘Blackbird’ euphorbias, mail-ordered from Plant Delight, in my garden last year, and did not have your success. The death star defeated each one, although one holdout is still barely alive. Ah well. They look lovely in your garden. Enjoy!

    Thanks Pam. I added three more Ascot Rainbows this summer and lost all three. The first group was planted last October, so, lesson learned. They need cool weather to become established, it seems.

  11. banner6 says:

    Yours is definitely not Bob’s “Suckcess”.

    HA Ricki, thanks. Bob ended up being more suck-cessful than he ever imagined, as it turns out in the long run. The garden transcends all that.

  12. Dylan, sweet! Love the wide view of the hillside/slope. I have Ascot Rainbow and like the addition of the Blackbird with it….will look for it in the spring. Our sourwood in our area are just brilliant red now.

    Thanks Janet. The long view of the steepest hillside, taken from atop the garage deck with the dogwoods and muhly is a favorite at this time of year. I really wanted more Ascot Rainbow but the nursery only had Blackbird. I like them together, too.

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