The fall color display in central Iowa has been spectacular this year. Just the right combination of warm, sunny days and cool, but above-freezing temperatures at night, along with a little stress from the driest September and October in six decades led to glorious golds, outstanding oranges, and rich reds. Yesterday’s rain and wind brought down quite a few leaves, but some trees will hold their color for a few more days, or even weeks in the case of many oaks and callery pears.
It’s odd to say that the new 950-page tome is downsized from the previous book, which is nearly 1,200 pages in length. It certainly doesn’t feel less hefty! With the inclusion of so many photos, Dirr had to leave out some of the nerdy horticultural details found in his previous work. For example, the number of red maples and hybrids discussed in the new book is 17 compared to 58 in the previous book. Similarly ginkgo dropped from 40 to 5 varieties, and dawn redwood decreased from 9 to 6 varieties. However, the book is still replete with Dirr’s personal anecdotes and observations. He has updated the book with more recent introductions and dropped some of the more obscure ones. The pictorial displays more than make up for the abbreviated text. And most gardeners will appreciate not having to sift through obscure varieties that they’re not likely to find at the local nursery anyway.
Last week I went to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in search of fall color to photograph for an upcoming book on trees and shrubs. As a guest of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and the Walworth County Visitors Bureau, I was treated to gracious hospitality and peak fall color. The wealthy of the Midwest who built their summer homes around Geneva Lake employed famous landscape architects such as Frederick Law Olmsted to ensure that they would have beautiful, extended fall color on their waterfront estates.
Current visitors to the area can take advantage of this planned color extravaganza. In a unique twist in local regulations and covenants, the public has direct access to the lakefront yards of these estates by means a footpath that encircles the entire lake. I hiked several sections of the 21-mile-long trail, took advantage of more distant views afforded on the mail-delivery tour boat run by Lake Geneva Cruise Line, and split the difference by kayaking along the shore, too, in a kayak supplied by Clear Water Outdoor. Scroll down to see more of the autumnal beauty that I was treated to on these jaunts.
Even the Baker House, the lovely boutique hotel where I stayed, got into the fall color act. Right outside their main entrance, they have witch hazel which was in bloom as well as sporting a healthy display of autumn gold. The entire press tour group got a taste of Baker House hospitality at a reception in their restaurant and on the hotel grounds on Tuesday evening. But I was fortunate enough to enjoy the superb service of their staff for my entire stay in Lake Geneva. The hotel is conveniently located just a couple of blocks from downtown and the Riviera boat docks. The public boat launch (where I put in with the kayak) is almost directly across the street. And, it’s right on the lake path. It made for a wonderful combination of convenience and luxury!
As the season goes in Iowa, temperatures have started to drop and it’s evident with this week’s stroll through the BHG Test Garden. Some plants have completely lost their luster, while others are thriving. Take notes to know what to plant next year for a long season of color.
Here’s a shrub you don’t see often in the landscape, but is perfect for adding color to a shady garden: Dwarf fothergilla.
Depending on the season, fothergilla fall foliage can turn yellow, orange, or red.
Although the Test Garden is closed for the year, you can still enjoy the season’s colors! Right outside the east doors of Meredith several clump ginkgo are planted and have started to turn golden yellow.
Just a quick tidbit: it’s a rarity to find such awesome specimens of ginkgo in Iowa, let alone with multiple clumps. I’d highly suggest if you have a chance to see for yourself the magnitude of these trees, you do!
How’s you’re gardening looking this fall? What’s your favorite fall plant? I have to say Little Henry sweetspire is my favorite.
The tips of the serviceberry leaves are starting to turn their usual orange and red.
Generally more upright in habit, the Golden Pillar barberry shows great promise this fall as its golden yellow foliage turns reddish orange. Here’s a closer look:
This is the LAST week the Test Garden will be open! Be sure to get in while you can, speak with Sandra, the BHG Test Garden manager, and snag any snippet of garden knowledge she’s willing to share!
Lots of gardens start to look a little dull by the time autumn rolls around, but happily, that doesn’t have to be the case with yours.
There are, of course, great fall-flowering perennials such as anemone, aster, and goldenrod. And then there are the trees and shrubs that offer such fantastic fall color, such as maples, birches, and ginkgo.
But there’s another group of plants, too — perennials that have great fall foliage. One of my all-time favorites is bloody geranium, so-called because of the brilliant shade of red its leaves turn each autumn. Many other perennial geraniums also offer fine fall color.
There are also peonies, many of which turn a delightful shade of gold as the days grow short, and hostas, and many grasses (including the stunning ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass).
And this year I’ve noticed my bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) is also putting on quite a show with its dark green leaves turning a rich shade of amber.
Shown here is another good one — bergenia (also called pigsqueak), which combines brilliantly with an azalea and ‘Queen Charlotte’ pink anemone.
Autumn doesn’t have to mean the end of your garden. Pick the right plants, such as ‘Alma Potschke’ aster (shown here), and you can keep the floral display going until the snow flies. Happily, you’re not just limited to mums and asters; many roses continue going until they’re nipped back by hard frost. I also have ‘Rozanne’ geranium blooming up a storm at home, along with ‘Summer Snowflake’ viburnum, Profusion zinnias, Wave petunias, Supercal calibrachoas, and more.
Plus there are plants with colorful fall leaves and berries, too!