Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Unexpected Fall color

I'm not a fan of autumn. I guess it's the inevitability of winter that really puts me off it, but even if spring came right after fall, I don't think I'd be very enthused. As I live in Portland, however, I reluctantly make my peace with fall each year. And I'm prepared to admit that the return of cloudy skies affects the way color looks in the garden in a very good way.

Some of it is subtle. I love the look of my two new agaves: A. gypsofila (left) and A. titanota are soft blue-green in blue pots against our "perfect green" paint.  I acquired them from Sage Eco Nursery on our September trip to Los Osos, California, and they survived the remainder of the trip up the coast carefully cushioned from all our other traveling gear.

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard' has yet to be planted out, but it's already coloring up with the most alluring coral shade along its yellow stripes.

My Cannas typically peak both in foliage and blossoms when they're about to be slammed with autumn's cold, wet weather.

These huckleberry berries just keep getting bigger and darker purple. It beats me why they haven't been stripped off by the birds or our local raccoon population. They certainly are as ripe as I've picked them for pancakes in Gifford Pinchot.

More subtle color from Melianthus major: now that I've grown it, I understand what all the fuss is about. Who could resist the soft, new growth contrasting with the mature leaves of 'Purple Haze'?

Here's some in-your-face color contrast: Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' with Abutilon 'Tangerine'.

And another Abutilon: 'Temple Bells', finally achieving some height and sporting beautifully red-veined flowers against the pampas and other tan grasses.

Here's some traditional autumn color: We had to replace our original dogwood (Cornus x 'Eddie's White Wonder') when it died after we moved it, and although it's hard starting over, we're thrilled about the gorgeous oranges we're seeing now. I like the orange better than our last dogwood which turned a kind of dull purple color in fall.

And the orange looks even better when it's backed by the new chocolate color we painted the neighbor's garage wall.

We started out with the garage wall painted "Winchester", the same new color as our foundation. It's a great color for a foundation and works well with the new exposed aggregate patio, but it was dull, dull, dull on the garage as a backdrop to plants and trees and it had to go.

Now the wall is lovely, warm "Chocolate" (literally, that's Miller's name for it) and it's delicious behind  Mahonia aquifolium and the young Mountain Hemlock.

Back to more traditional autumn color, enjoy these blond  Koeleria macrantha seedheads against the pines.

In keeping with the return of wet weather, I'm enjoying the look of this rusted vertebral art against the camellia.

And for sheer contrast, how about this bright green Irish moss backing wet mulch. This is a look with which all we Portlanders will become very familiar over the next six months ... or will it be longer?


  1. Hi Jane, what a wonderful post. It started with your first sentence. I'm not a fan of autumn either and have to, like you say, "make peace with it." It's the disarray that gets to me. Leaves all over the freaking place... uh! :) I had to laugh at your comment about how well the Agaves traveled. I bet nothing wanted to get anywhere near them with those sharp points. :) Love the Melianthus and the other foliage shots. Love the rusty art and yes that last photo looks very familiar. I love moss. Good thing, right? :)

  2. Nice new agave pair!! You know where I stand on this fall thing...Although I do think if spring came right after fall I could warm up to the idea...sweaters and a good stew, as well as pumpkin bread.....love them, almost as much as flip flops!

    Will you go to lengths to protect your Melianthus?

  3. I guess I'm in the minority as a fall lover...although it does sadden me to see the floppy, sodden mess my garden has become :-( Love the Melianthus!!! Wish I could find room for one...maybe someday I'll have a bigger plot and can go wild! That rusty art is nice...where did you get it?

  4. I love the "Chocolate" paint color. It looks as delicious as its namesake. Beautiful agaves, too.

  5. Thanks for the lovely post, Jane. I've been enjoying the beautiful colors here as well .. the purple Cotinus is putting on an amazing show with bright orange to cheer the dark days.
    I've added some of the Irish moss too.. may as well go with the flow!

    I wonder if you have any words of wisdom for overwintering Abutilon; I didn't realize you have so many! Our methods were extreme last year, but the plants returned. Appreciate any advice you can offer.

  6. I love pretty much all yuccas but that touch of red in 'Color Guard' in the winter. Wow!

  7. Many of your photos are failing to come up for me (boohoo), but the ones I can see are stunning. I especially love the soft play of color with those blue pots holding the Agaves.


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