September 23, 2011

Fall Color in the Garden

Today is the autumn equinox, and the color in the trees is becoming more intense. Hues are also changing in the gardens around the house as the green chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down and as berries ripen. There is a large euonymus shrub in front of my studio, with an apt common name of Burning Bush, that turns a brilliant scarlet in the fall. The berries are a favorite of birds and I enjoy watching them hopping about through the branches.

Several red osier dogwoods have seeded themselves around my pond; their leaves are a decorative red now and the stems will stay vivid throughout the winter.

All the ferns are starting to die back, turning yellow to brown. From a distance a mass of dead ferns is a rich warm brown, a strong contrast with the still bright green of grass. I love the way the frond has curled in on itself, like head and limbs bowing and gesturing obediently.

The flower heads, now turning to seed, of the Filipendula rubra, or Queen of the Prairie, are a lovely haze of red.

The most dramatic note in my garden is the fall color of the Miss Kim lilac, a deep plum purple which shows a dark cadmium red in sunlight. The large mass of this shrub in my flower border is a stunning backdrop for the variegated greens and yellows in front of it.

And finally, the gorgeous berries of the barberry, a plant considered an invasive which was growing around my property when I moved here. It has terrible long sharp spines, but small scented yellow flowers in spring and these berries in the fall, another favorite of the birds. At this time of year each day brings a change, another thing to notice: orange here, a crimson blush there, green turning to yellow or sienna, before the world turns to umbers and white.


  1. I especially love the image of the brown, drying/dying back fern frond. And your painterly descriptions of exact colors: cadmium red, sienna, and omber. As always: a treat to see the natural world through your sensibility, especially turned on my favorite season: autumn.

  2. Beautiful, and so inspiring... thanks for sharing!

  3. thanks Julie and glimmering, for the nice comments. The past few days have been such a joy, living inside of all this color.

  4. I love this time of year. It seems the world slows down and one can enjoy the colors and the change of season.