Unexpected Color

Are you all tired of "fall color" yet? I'm weary of the term, I see it so often and admittedly use it too much. I do love the colors, however, and thought that the show was finished for the year, but after a quick walk through the garden today I see that is not the case. Color lingers on - sometimes, as you will see, in unexpected places. Here are the hold out sources for changing color this time of year at Chickadee Gardens.

 Cotoneaster horizontalis 'Variegatus' - variegated rockspray cotoneaster is one of its common names. A nice variegated low shrub most of the year, it quickly turns to shades of pink and red combined with white.

 Sedum palmeri, as well as many sedums, often display shades of red, especially when stressed by low water or cold temperatures.

 Metasequoia glyptostroboides or dawn redwood, a deciduous conifer, turns from green to rich shades of gold and brown before dropping its needles for the year. There is only the one species in the genus Metasequoia, and this is it. This tree is about 6' tall this year. It was given to me as a seedling from Evan Bean of the Practical Plant Geek. It's beautiful.

 Vitex rotundifolia, roundleaf chaste tree. This is a prostrate woody subshrub that usually puts on a decent show of autumn color. Definitely invasive in the Southeast, keep this away from beaches, especially. Here and in much of the U.S. it is well-behaved and lovely.

One of my favorite perennials for really late season color is Helianthus angustifolius or swamp sunflower. It doesn't even think about blooming until October when everything else is finished up. This plant has been in the ground two years, having started from a 4" pot. It will get large and showy and requires medium moisture.

 Cornus sericea or red osier dogwood, a native to the Pacific Northwest. I have planted many bare root trees purchased from native plant sales the past few years. This year, finally, they did a little something. They have attractive white flowers in spring followed by berries which are appealing to wildlife. The red stems in winter are a bonus, adding much needed color to an otherwise often drab landscape. While the fall color on these is not unexpected, it's just the first year they've really grown and shown their real habit and form. If you have room for these, they are definitely a great plant to add to the wildlife friendly garden. They do spread, but can be controlled by cutting out underground runners and cutting it back hard every few years.

 Cotoneaster nitida - I planted this after seeing the one at work:

While mine has a long way to go, it still has great color. This specimen has been pruned up to this effect in the gardens of Joy Creek Nursery.

A Cornus florida cultivar, not sure which one. This is a wonderful small tree for late-season color. 

These silly Calendula 'Strawberry Blonde' are not only still blooming but they have morphed into the oddest colors. They were peachy shades all summer, but now they are all mixed.

This one is half and half. 

Swiss chard 'Vulcan' while still red-stemmed has amazingly dark leaves from the cold weather. 

OK, not much special color here but I thought Oscar was looking particularly handsome. In the background Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley' is blooming pink.

The Franklinia alatamaha has not dropped any leaves. I wonder if that flower bud will unfurl one of these days. It's been holding on for a long time. 

An unknown otherwise boring flowering cherry has spectacular fall color. Of course I missed a photo of it at its peak last week.

Acer palmatum 'Sango-Kaku' is free of leaves (what a show this year!) and now it's time for the bark to shine. This shows up so well against a sea of evergreen trees as a backdrop. 

Colorful and delicious squash and pumpkins curing in the new greenhouse. 

This rose is so cool this time of year. Rosa foliosa, a species rose, has such lovely fall color. The hot pink single flowers are nice, too. 

 Miscanthus sinensis 'Cabaret' is a rainbow this year.

Isn't that beautiful? I have about 6 of these giants, each about 7' tall and nearly as wide. They stay reliably upright for me most of the year and then they do this. 

This has been a glorious fall if you are one for "fall color". I for one am, although as mentioned, I tire of the term. I think I prefer thinking of it simply as color. I have planted the garden to have a lot of foliage color year-round so I am pleased to see it is lasting well into November. Hooray! I count my blessings.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy gardening one and all!


  1. 6 feet! Wow! The one I kept is only about 2 feet tall, but it's golden and I think I gave you a normal green one? It's not in a good spot. Hopefully the compost I gave it this year will translate to more growth next year. I know it wants more water, too.
    Cornus sericea is one of my favorite plants for fall. It can have such amazing colors. A lot of my fall color was cut short this year because I had harder frosts, but the Cornus sericea 'Hedgerow's Gold' still has color.

    1. I do have a normal green one. It really grew this year - and it doesn't get particularly a lot of water. We love it and are looking forward to watching it grow.

      I adore the cornus, too - interesting your color was cut short. We had hard frosts, but yours were undoubtedly more severe. Hedgerow's Gold, one my faves, has colored and dropped its leaves in our garden. Interesting!

  2. Beautiful photos. A friend of mine just picked up the Cotoneaster horizontalis for her garden. Your photo provides a preview of how hers will hopefully look in a few years.

    1. Oooh, it's really cool. The variegated version is particularly lovely. I hope it does well for her!

  3. I love the Cotoneasters and the Miscanthus. My Sunset Western Garden Book tells me both should grow in my climate, although I can't recall coming across either locally. I wonder is they'll color up as prettily in my climate, though.

    1. Good question...I've learned that fall color is determined by how many sunny warm days followed by cool evenings one has in late summer/early fall - so maybe you would have fall color? Hopefully? Do you cool off at night enough?

  4. You are lucky to have that gorgeous color on your Metasequoia. For the second year in a row, strange autumn weather has kept ours from coloring up or dropping the needles in its normal pattern. The Ginkgos lost their leaves in one swoop but they had barely started to turn color. Hate to not enjoy those special fall treats.

    1. Oh, that's too bad, Linda. Really...it's happened to us, too - the promise of good fall color then the weather turns or something happens and it never develops or leaves go to brown instead of rich warm colors. We are lucky, we had great color this year, to be sure!


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