First Frost Fading Faire

This week saw the first frost arrive right on schedule, a blessedly light one as it draped over the Fairegarden. Damage was minimal, if any. The cold often brings the colors and contrasts of fall to a crescendo of brilliance before the season of brown and grey descends. The pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris is at its most scrumptious as it fades to shades of purple before going to a honeyed straw hue.

Still attractive as they enter the period of dormancy, perennials are allowed to remain standing well into winter here, the ones that die well, that is. Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ in a hypertufa trough is more snazzy looking now than when wearing a cloak of blueish green.

The criteria are not stringent for a plant to be considered fading faire, it must be able to stand upright is job one. The edging of tall Sedum alboroseum mediovariegatum along the pathway of the white/yellow bed should have been cut down in May to help make it less lanky. There is no excuse, it was on the list. But what is that one bit of pinky amongst the yellow legs?

This stem will get a piece of string or something tied around it to see if it is growing from the same type of sedum as the rest of the row. If so, it will be propagated and given some type of cool name including the word *faire* and something good to eat. How about Faire Pink Lemonade?

Colorless but textural, dried seedheads add interest and food for the birds. Do allow them to remain in your garden until they collapse.

The yellow aster, named for my friend, the owner of Mouse Creek Perennial Farm, Heterotheca villosa ‘Ruth Baumgardner’ produced one seedling, in the gravel path, this year. Let’s see if allowing the seedheads to stand as long as they can will make some more babies.

The newly redesigned Gravel Garden, renamed and tweaked last fall is much improved. All Echinacea seedheads are left for the finches to devour.

Dahlias are NOT a plant considered to die well, age attractively or fade faire. Most were covered with a canvas drop cloth and remain unscathed if somewhat smooshed. This one was forgotten but will live a while longer, it is hoped. There is another fat, juicy flower bud just under this bloom. It might be Dahlia ‘Gallery Picasso’, recently purchased at a big box markdown.

The Amsonia tribe turns to a golden splash in fall, there are several species growing here. The Stipa tenuissima never really fades, faire or otherwise, it is considered to have year around interest, and looks remarkably like another fading faire…

This one growing out of the noggin of the gardener. Some might call it grey, but I prefer the term Champagne for the grass lookalike!

Past posts on this topic:
Dying Well-2008
Dying Well-Aging Attractively-2009
Dying Well-Fading Faire_2010


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20 Responses to First Frost Fading Faire

  1. Oh WOW Frances, the first photo with the pink muhly grass is a vision! How beautiful it looks! You’re as talented a photographer as you are gardener!

    Thanks so much Christine. You give me too much credit for the photo, it is the lighting and the siting, not to mention the photogenic muhly that makes the shot, plus the colorful leaves behind the grass. I am merely a point and shoot on auto gal. The muhly is having a good year. I am, however, a very hard working gardener! HA

  2. Gail says:

    Dear Frances~ I so agree with Christine the first photo is a vision and you deserve all the credit for siting it and taking the photo. One of my favorite fall and winter sights are the stars left over when asters and their near cousins go to seed and then lose their fluffiness to expose the star beneath. Heterotheca villosa ‘Ruth Baumgardner’ is a star…in or out of bloom. xxoogail

    Thank you, dear Gail, you are too kind. The aster seedheads dress up the winter garden and offer food for anything hungry. Ruth is indeed a star!

  3. I thought that last photo was my Carex that I just took out of the Halloween pot. Funny how we can be fooled with photography. I love all of the seed heads and color that you still have in your garden.


    Thanks Eileen, I was trying to be tricky! HA

  4. Layanee says:

    We should all have some champagne in our lives as we age shouldn’t we? I am envious of your muhly grass. I know it will not withstand the winters here…maybe I should give some a try anyway. Yours is so luscious…pink champagne with bubbles.

    Thanks Layanee. I love Champagne, in or out of the garden! Give the muhly a try, find a protected well drained spot for it.

  5. gwen says:

    The photo of the pink muhly grass is truly beautiful — it looks like a painting almost! Wow. I never knew such a beautiful grass existed!

    Thanks Gwen. The pink muhly grass is not as well known as it should be, I am trying to fix that. It is only hardy to zone 7, maybe 6 with proper siting, though. It could be a worthwhile annual, like the red fountain grass and it has reseeded a tiny bit here, too.

  6. Marilyn says:

    My comment will be a repetition, but I do love, love that first picture! Of course, all the others are easy on my eyes, too. ♥♫

    Thanks Marilyn. We appreciate all comments!

  7. We’re due for our first frost this week, I’ve been scrambling to get the dainty plants covered. Your garden looks relatively unscathed though. I love ‘Faire Pink Lemonade’, a perfect name!

    Thanks CV. I hope your dainties escape frosty harm for a while longer, as well. I checked the base of Faire Pink Lemonade, it is one pink stalk growing from the same crown as the yellows. Interesting.

  8. ricki says:

    A few light frosts before heavy weather sets in is a blessing we can usually count on. Alas, not last year…fingers crossed for ’11. Jack Frost has wielded his brush most artistically in your garden.

    Thanks Ricki. My fingers are crossed for you to have an extended show with little damage as the cold time comes. These days are so enjoyable, while they last.

  9. We have long loved your muhly grass – the siting, the light and your capturing of both. I was also fooled by your last photo. Champagne is the perfect name for the colour. Cheers, Frances!

    Thanks Helen, you are too kind and sweet. I appreciate your own beautiful hair, too!

  10. Fading well is an important consideration here too. So many gardeners look down their noses at Hostas, but we know they are missing out on a great fall show.

    Glad to hear it, MMD. Many hostas are simply gorgeous in their fall coloration. Some just get crispy and brown, but some turn a glorious golden hue. Always welcome.

  11. joey says:

    Your header is breathtaking, dear Frances. Happy November 🙂

    Happy November, dear Joey, and thanks. Your own photos always take my breath away!

  12. Speaking of stipa — I literally hand-combed the seeds out of mine earlier in the summer. I put a flat rock on top of one end of seed heads to hold them in place in my chosen location. I now have a nice stand of stipa seedlings! I was thrilled on how easy it is to collect and place them where I choose.

    Hi Freda, thanks for adding in here. I like to do the combing as well on the Stipa. It took several years for me to figure out that that was the best way to de-tangle it! The babies are a bonus.

  13. Lisa says:

    Lovely, lovely photos of your garden! Enjoy the fall.


    Thanks Lisa. This fall has been slow and sweet, so far. Enjoy your gardens, as well.

  14. Absolutely stunning pennisetums!

    Thanks Catherine. You may be referring to the pink muhly grass in the first photo, Muhlenbergia capillaris. It is having a good year.

  15. 7aces/Darla says:

    Some do fade a lot better than others…..I literally laughed out loud at the last photo…love the champagne color…!

    Thanks Darla, I was going for the cheap laugh! HA It was the Piet Oudolf book that got me to looking at the way plants die, some are very pretty, even without frost and snow to dress them up.

  16. Norma says:

    Like so many of the others, I love your muhly grass. I have mine planted in clumps . . but next spring those babies will be spread out! Love your photography as well!

    Thanks Norma. I am so happy to hear that you have the pink muhly growing, so many are not able to, can’t find any or have never heard of it. I know your stand will be grand!

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