Autumn Has Returned

I will never again take fresh air for granted. After some 10 days of off-the-charts poor air quality from forest fires, we breathe again. The rains came, scrubbing clean all in its reach, re-invigorating the earth. The plants are happy. So are we. It was an incredible few weeks with scorching, hot weather followed by windstorms that dried it all followed by wildfires and smoke, then torrential rain. So while I have no agenda this week, no focus for a blog post, the beauty that surrounds us must be appreciated. Here is a more typical September walkabout at Chickadee Gardens, while all of us are in a very happy and grateful mood.

The corner of the berm garden, a really tough spot to plant. It's on the north side of the house but gets full sun much of the day in summer and is nearly all shade in winter. The soil is clay, made worse by the retaining wall which keeps the winter wet in. I've experimented with many plants over the years (not to mention adding a ton of crushed gravel and compost to improve the soil) and finally have a good cast of characters to work with. I'm getting there.

Standing in the middle of the orchard looking south towards the veggie garden. It looks kind of wild, which I like, because we let the grass in the orchard grow really tall and simply mowed paths as needed. It turned out to be a great experiment, providing many grasses and flowers that insects and birds were attracted to. If you leave the grasses to collapse on themselves later in the season, it is said to be perfect hunting grounds for owls.

Aster ericoides 'First Snow' is so pretty for a fall garden, plus the bees really like it. One of my favorite asters, hands down.

This is the season for big grasses. Here, a trio of Stipa gigantea catches the afternoon sunlight.

Here, a trio of Muhlenbergia rigens faces the sun head-on.

Tetrapanax papyrifer starting to turn a little yellow, but still a pretty giant.

Cosmos atrosanguineus, chocolate cosmos, have overwintered three years now, a total delight.

Euphorbia rigida and Nassella tenuissima in a dry bed. Lots of textures in the garden right now, something that can especially be appreciated in the lower angle of the sun.

The edge of a shrubby woodland area with a petite Miscanthus 'Little Zebra' in bloom. Physocarpus 'Diabolo' behind it, Spiraea t. 'Ogon' in the foreground.

Panicum 'Northwind' flopped over in recent rains. I still love it.

Our Michihiro Kosuge sculptures in Lucy's garden bed with the labyrinth garden beyond. My blue shed Casa Azul is to the left of the oak trunk on the left side of this photo.

Through the gravel garden, many foliage textures and colors catch the afternoon sun. 

Brachyglottis greyi among rosemary and asters. 

I enjoy Rosa glauca hips more than the pink flowers, I admit. Anything with berries or hips I am immediately drawn to. I suppose it's my lifelong love of nature, walks in the woods and the fantasy of having a garden large enough for a hedgerow. My needs are simple.

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, mountain mint. This is said to be kind of weedy looking but I think it's lovely. Pollinators are very attracted to it, too. 

The ol' blue hydrangeas (unknown cultivar) although drying out in purple and mauve tones are still looking fine. These create a boundary for a shrubby woodland garden behind.

One of only two toad lilies survived the vole explosion in the shade garden this year. This is one, a new one for me, Tricyrtis formosana 'Dark Beauty.'

Simple Rudbeckia hirta. I'm always happy to have this in the garden this time of the year.

A primarily dry bed on the edge of the labyrinth still going strong with foliage and texture.

Holboellia coriacea, an evergreen vine for part shade has taken off this year, climbing up this redbud tree.

More plants in a dry border.

Punica granatum 'Dwarf Red' - a poor little plant I had at the old house (purchased from the 50% off closeout tough love section) that got moved no less than five times and never looked good. At one point I literally had a leafless stick in my hand with a tiny root coming out the bottom, aiming for the compost bin. Something told me to just stick it in the ground instead, it might have been laziness on my part, as in too far to throw it away. So it grew a little, then came with us here. Now it's blooming and growing and happy. Payback. Little things matter.

A tapestry of textures in the labyrinth garden. Front and center is the grass Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition', to the left is Phlomis russeliana, to the right is Salix repens var. argentea.

Schizostylis coccinea 'Oregon Sunset' is such a great color to have this time of the year. It pairs well with red and orange foliage plants.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides hiding under carex. I like the color combination.

Santolina 'Lemon Queen' is still cool in my eyes long after the yellow button-like blooms have faded. I like the punctuation and dark colors that stand out in the fall garden.

At the edge of the orchard, a small Parrotia persica or Persian ironwood tree will hopefully add more fall color in the coming weeks.

Viburnum opulus 'Aureum' beginning to turn colors, a nice combination with its berries. Categorize this in with the "fantasy hedgerow".

 Bupleurum fruticosum, a super-easy evergreen shrub that takes sun or some shade. It is also a crazy attractor of a huge array of pollinators, small and large. 

Carex testacea, orange sedge, surrounds Juniperus communis 'Compressa', a very vertical juniper.

A white Japanese anemone. While I know these can take over, they have been slow to start for me.

Allium (probably tuberosum, garlic chives) which I have planted in a few spots in the meadow garden. The pollinators do love them. Behind is Amsonia hubrichtii.

Our Buddha surrounded by pots near the front door.

Berberis jamesiana berries just beginning to turn color.

The raised beds in the veggie garden were cleaned up and new soil added. I let the spring lettuces and radishes go to seed so I could collect them. It looked ratty all summer but I've got a shed full of seed now, so I'm happy. Over the past weekend I sowed greens and garlic in the refreshed beds to have lettuce through late fall.

It's not all veggies in the veggie garden - this is my first go at black-eyed Susan vine, they are a lot of fun! Easy, too. These were intermingled with sweet peas that have finished for the year.

More trees in the orchard. I love this part of the garden now that the trees are getting large. I've always wanted an orchard, it really feels surreal that we have one.

The pumpkin patch has taken over! It's sincere, I promise, oh Great Pumpkin.

I am a little infatuated with the castor bean plant Ricinus communis this year. They are just so sculptural! The real reason I grew them is I've been told that moles hate them and if you shove the leaves down a mole hole, the mole will evacuate. We shall see. Even still, they are lovely and interesting, I may grow them again.

The edge of the veggie garden with the orchard on the right, the path in between is simply a mowed grass one that FM keeps well-trimmed.

Fennel and dill is a favorite of pollinators.

A columnar apple with a support at its base. I recently learned how to prune these so they will get a serious chop chop this winter to help lighten the load. There is so much to learn.

These ginormous things are not cucumbers, oh no. They are loofah gourds - so when the Apocalypse arrives we will be able to bathe ourselves with home-grown sponges. They are tricky to get started and really love full sun, good water and rich soil. I gave them extra attention and am pleased as can be that they have grown as I've failed the last two years. They didn't really even get taller than 8" until well into July, I was surprised how fast they grew once they got going.

Sooo . . . the "Trixie" situation. Trixie, one of our three new pullets, turned out to be a rooster indeed. I asked for name suggestions and Tristan was mentioned. FM loved it, so Tristan it is! OK, to go one step further - Tristan was a character Brad Pitt played in Legends of the Fall, so FM calls him Brad Pitt. I call him Tristan. Whatever his name, he's a handsome one and, yes, we shall keep him. He is really very tame and sweet, almost shy. FM is waiting for the crowing to start!

Dying artichokes against a fluffy sea of asparagus foliage. Kind of Halloween-ish.

Swiss chard in the sun.

Corn, grapes on the fence straight ahead, gooseberries on the left.

FM eating one of many apples he has been consuming daily.

Buddha backed by an Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn' looks over the orchard.

There's a quick but fresh look at the early autumn garden at Chickadee Gardens. It is really one of my favorite times of the year, so I am doubly pleased to be able to get out and enjoy it after some three weeks primarily indoors, a time that felt incredibly unnatural. Breathing! It feels so good. 

Thank you for coming along with us on our tour of the garden. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy gardening!


  1. So glad your fresh air has returned. It does really make you appreciate it more. Your garden is still lovely. I think we tend to appreciate our gardens a bit more in the Fall too because you know the end is near. Most of my harvest is done now so I find myself just walking around and taking it all in as every day without frost is a bonus. Congrats on the luffa. They are really cool.

    1. I agree with you, we really appreciate autumn for these reasons and more. It's generally a time to slow down and take in the beauty of all we worked hard for all year. Yes, thank you for the fresh air sentiments. We are more than happy!

  2. There's a lot to love in your fall garden. I'm glad the smoke cleared allowing you to enjoy it. There's little sign of fall here, where the temperature rose above 100F yesterday and may again today. There's a chicken down the street that also turned out to be a rooster - I'm finally getting used to his 5am wake-up call ;) Gardeners World featured a woman who grew loofa among other things but she eats it so it seems has a dual purpose.

    1. Yay for smoke clearing! Wow...100f? I am sorry. Hopefully cooler weather ahead for you. What are the rooster rules in your neighborhood? Most don't allow them - I'm surprised you have one in your hood!

      Oh, yes, the loofah - you can eat them but...I prefer to scrub with them. Hee hee...

  3. So thankful that the smoke is gone here at the mouth of the Columbia as well, and that I can get out and do some much needed work in my garden and enjoy the season. Like you, I will never take fresh air for granted again!

    1. Yay for fresh air! I feel the same way, have been cooped up inside for a long time with so much to do outside. Embrace the fresh air my friend!

  4. Doesn't matter the time of year I so enjoy seeing your garden. It is so full of inspiration. Tristan is a handsome dude.

    1. Oh, thank you Lisa, your words are too kind. Tristan is good lookin'! He's awkward as heck but will be quite a handsome devil soon.


Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments! I love hearing them, I will approve comments as soon as I can. Yay!

Popular Posts