Seeds, Grasses, Color and Fruit: The Early Autumn Garden

As many of you know, the nursery where I work, Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose, announced early last week that it will be closing. Forever. An integral part of the horticulture world for nearly 30 years, this news came with shock, love and sadness. The co-owners Maurice and Mike simply wish to retire. That event overshadowed any extracurricular activities for me as we have naturally been incredibly overwhelmed by visitors shopping for the last time. I plan on writing a tribute post for Joy Creek soon, but for now I wish to push this little post out of the gate.
As summer wound down, a little pang of sadness overcame me. It goes by so quickly. As far as garden tasks, I feel like I didn't do half of what I wanted to and had even less time to enjoy the garden. The constant watering took care of that. But, the sweetness of autumn eases me into what will inevitably be winter with its remnants of summer flowers now dark with age and the transformation of green into golds and reds. Seeds of grasses, berries and fruits are the flowers of autumn and I must admit that I love them just the same as if they were flowers. This is a transition period, the full-blown autumn color is a whole separate post. Come with me now and enjoy a little early autumn color at Chickadee Gardens.

Vitis vinifera that produced dark, sweet and delicious grapes just a couple of weeks ago turn rich red against a sea of Helianthus angustifolius, which is about to bloom in mid-October.

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'

Echinacea purpurea flowers left standing for songbirds to gorge on their seeds.

The last of the Erynguim giganteum forest. I have since cut it back so we may once again have access to our driveway. They were self-sown in gravel and were beautiful all summer.

Rosa glauca is a favorite for its rich ruby hips. Other roses for great hips include R. pomifera and R. moyesii.

Looking suspiciously like echinacea, Rudbeckia hirta flowers are also left standing all winter for their seeds that will feed many goldfinches and other small birds.

We have about seven apple trees, all a young tender age of just 5 years old that produced well for us this year. Nothing like a fresh, sweet 'Honeycrisp' straight from the tree.

Viburnum trilobum berries, our native viburnum. The leaves are beginning to turn rich yellows and reds too these days.

Pennisetum spathiolatum flowers are very elegant.

Acer circinatum, our native vine maple putting on a lovely show this year.

View of the edge of the orchard with early autumn light.

Sedum 'Matrona' - it was an interesting year for upright sedums, they grew fine but the flowers were not as showy this year as in years past. A few actually flopped open. too, something that has not ever happened in this garden.

Baptisia australis seeds add a bit of drama to the autumn garden.

The fig tree had a pretty good year. Earlier this summer there were a few ripe fruits which, in a word, were divine. 

Corn stalks backed by castor bean plant.

Phlomis russelliana seed heads. These will stand through all manner of inclement weather and look pretty cool in the winter garden.

Muhlenbergia rigens backed by Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku'

Fothergilla x intermedia 'Blue Shadow' is a good deciduous shrub for autumn color.

The undersides of Quercus hypoleucoides, silver oak. While this is not autumn color, it is an amazing tree that sets off surrounding golds and reds.

This shot was taken while standing in the orchard with the veggie garden in the background.

Stipa gigantea inflorescences

Second Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' two weeks ago

Same tree a week later

Pennisetum 'Karly Rose' inflorescences with Teucrium fruticans in the foreground.

Juncus effusus inflorescences

Echinacea purpurea with Asclepias speciosa, showy milkweed.

Panicum 'Northwind'

Cotinus flower

A giant sunflower, sown by the birds, thus I do not know the variety. You can see where the seeds have been eaten away, a favorite among blue jays, goldfinches and chickadees. We have many birds in the veggie garden right now as they hang out and clean out seeds and I'm sure all manner of insects.

Pie pumpkins, 'Winter Luxury' curing in the hoophouse. Oooh, they make great pies!

Onions and shallots also curing in the hoophouse. We'll go through all of these by February, I bet.

As are the delicata squash - honeyboat delicata, I believe. Amazing flavor and just the right size.

A lot to see in this transition period of the past two weeks, plus there is so much more to see right now, so much autumn color that I will share soon. It's been amazing this year, I suspect due to the heat dome of summer. All that stress and now a cool, wet autumn are likely the culprits. Also, as I mentioned at the beginning, stay tuned for a tribute post to Joy Creek Nursery. Lots coming down the line, especially as I'll have more time now that the nursery is closing.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! Happy autumn gardening one and all. Oh, and if you subscribe to Better Homes and Gardens, look for us in the November issue! Cheers!


  1. Thank you for sharing your beautiful autumn garden. How are the chickens and Sweetpea? I imagine they are enjoying the new coop house. I am the reader that suggested Tristan for your rooster. Love FM glossing him Brad Pitt!
    Will you be finding new nursery work? I live in California so I have not had the privilege to visit Joy Creek. I am always sad when a nursery closes. Especially one of a kind, unique, private ones.

    1. Thank you for asking, the hens and Sweet Pea are great! They love the new pen and we actually have 6 more hens that we adopted a few months ago, total = 14. And we're still only getting two eggs a day. I have to laugh....they're going to do what they want to do.

      ANYHOW thanks for the Tristan name, that was perfect.

      Well, as far as nursery work, I'm not sure. It is sad about Joy Creek but it's time, they want to retire. We get it.

      I am considering doing garden coaching/consulting, but am a little shy about it. We'll see. Cheers!!

  2. Your fall garden is looking fantastic, Tamara! I'm not surprised to see your harvest bounty, however the abrupt change in your Acer 'Sango Kaku' was a little startling - mine still look very much like your "before" shot but then fall foliage color is sparse in my part of the country. I was saddened to hear of Joy Creek's closing, as I am whenever a great nursery closes, even though I've never visited it except virtually via blog posts so I can only imagine how you feel. Best wishes with your own transition.

    1. Thank you Kris! Well, I hope you guys have rain today - a friend in San Jose said it's raining now, so hopefully it will come your way too. Perhaps that will trigger some fall color for your Acer.

      Thank you for your well-wishes, xoxo

  3. I follow your blog first because I've so enjoyed watching you create your garden over time, and secondly to gather ideas for my own North Coast garden in progress. I do have to regretfully skip over some of the plants you have that I'm most attracted to because we have, sigh, deer. I was excited to see that cranberry highbush does well for you, but then I looked it up and saw that it is "mildly resistant" to deer damage. "Mildly resistant" means our local herd are off chuckling to themselves about the feast to come, so I'll have to pass. I keep telling myself there is a seven foot fence in my future...someday!

    1. Thank you so much! The deer challenge - yes, I am sorry about that. It's the number one complaint I hear at the nursery from gardeners who are trying to garden and want deer resistant plants.

      Perhaps a seven foot fence is in your future, for your garden's sake I hope is a challenge to be sure. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Beautiful as always. I bought BH&G based on the cover image. Recognized your garden from your blog as soon as I saw it. What a treat to read about it on a cool rainy day here in Wisconsin.

    1. Thank you Linda! We are thrilled, it was two years in the making but finally landed in BH&G. Cheers from a rainy day here in the Pacific Northwest to you and yours in Wisconsin.

  5. Wow! That Erynguim giganteum forest must have been alive with creatures when in bloom. It's a gorgeous photo.

    1. Yup, it was INSANE this year, Loree. I have seeds. Just sayin' ;)

  6. So many great fall treasures- for the birds and for the humans! The colors DO seem more vibrant this year, here too, especially the vine maples. The viburnum berries are so brilliant red! The one you gave me is in full bright red leaf color. I love it! I need to get more of these for lots of berries for the birds. As for deer, I plan on keeping them caged until they are tall and big enough to stand some browsing. It's the getting them well established and some size to them that makes a difference. Enjoy the rain and lack of having to water, lol.

    1. Good feedback from your neck of the woods, Gina. So glad the viburnum is doing well, it's in a fantastic home! Yes, enjoy this wonderful rain. xo

  7. Your garden is mellowing well into it's winter slumber. Lots of beautiful light in your photos. It must be a real blow to hear about the nursery closing. I am sure you have learned a tremendous amount during your time there and have come home with lots of great plants and memories.

    1. It is mellowing, especially this past week. It is hard to process the nursery closing, indeed. It's also been joyful as SO many people have come out to express their gratitude and love for what Maurice and Mike have done. We all have a huge library of memories that we will treasure. It's been an education, that's for sure!


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