November Garden

What a summer. While not wishing to rehash challenges of earlier this year, let us rather dive into what has been a most lovely November. We have finally had rain (3.88" at our home in 24 hours during one event), and it has cooled down seemingly overnight. Summer to nearly winter in a day or so. Still, I'm trying to salvage a little autumn by appreciating the colors that have arrived. We are pleasantly surprised to have any color, because early on it seemed leaves would simply turn brown then drop. Also making me happy is that the Project List has check marks all over it. We're working hard to finish it all while the weather cooperates. There is also time to enjoy the garden, so here's a snapshot of mid-November after what was a rather challenging garden year.

From the top of the drive looking south through shrubs and grasses and Japanese maples.

One of my favorite trees Quercus hypoleucoides, silver oak, is an evergreen beauty that has thrived in full sun with basically no summer irrigation.

Amsonia hubrichtii finally turning gold and red.

Salvia confertifolia's unusual and I think rather cool flowers.

From the edge of the labyrinth garden with many plants removed from recent projects, it looks a little worse for wear but it will fill in quickly. 

Pretty color of Nectaplum fruit tree. 

Brick red colors of Parrotia persica, Persian ironwood.

The labyrinth garden winding down for the year. The perennials and grasses I will leave standing until spring as small birds love to forage on Solidago 'Fireworks' and also to nest here.

Many shrubs and small trees I planted early on are beginning to really have presence in the garden. Here a trio of colors and textures gave me a glimpse of what the mature garden might look like.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Malepartus' looking rather dapper.

Olearia lineata 'Dartonii', having had its bottom limbs removed, provides a canopy and a little see through to the gardens beyond. This evergreen shrub/small tree from New Zealand has been one of the toughest survivors in my garden; from no summer water in really dry soil to soaking record rain in spring and winter, to heavy snow bending its branches to the ground, it always bounces back and looks great.

A most underrated and underused shrub, our native Spiraea betulifolia var. lucida does this in autumn. Wow! White, clean, sparkling flowers in late spring add to its charm.

Another specimen with slightly differing autumn colors.

Arctostaphylos looks great year-round, but now with a backdrop of golden leaves it really stands out. Arctostaphylos 'Sentinel'

Berberis jamesiana's berries finally shifting color from chartreuse to this. It's a few weeks later than usual, I'm just happy they changed at all.

Foliage of Hebe cupressoides resembling a forest as seen from above.

Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst' has a beautiful habit of berries along its leaf axels and has a cascading effect when mature. I love this for its ornamental value. Birds seem to enjoy the berries.

Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' is indeed garnet colored this time of the year. It is one of the best deciduous small shrubs for autumn color and is a rather hardy plant. White pipe cleaner flowers in early summer with bright green foliage is a bonus to me; I would grow it just for this color.

Aster ageratoides 'Ezo Murasaki' is a late bloomer, keeping the bloom going often into December. I have read literature that says it is a rapid spreader by underground runners. However, I have it in a patch of field grass and that must contain its growth as it has not extended past its 1' or so wide clump in seven years. I see it regularly visited by honey bees as well as bumble bees.

One of our lovely natives, Cornus stolonifera 'Hedgerows Gold', a variegated form of our redwood dogwood, has lovely foliage color - spring and summer the variegation is refreshing while autumnal color is stunning.

Good ol' Phlomis russelliana doing its pompom thing. These will persist until I cut them off next spring, so if there is snow it actually looks pretty cool.

Melianthus major or honeybush, native to South Africa is evergreen in mild climates. It has been so for me much of the time we've been here, but it died back to the ground in April from the late snow. It has rebounded and looks rather lovely in a neglected area with little to no summer irrigation.

Native Viburnum trilobum from Bosky Dell Native Plants has lovely color and fruit.

Arctostaphylos silvicola 'Ghostly' had a great year. No water and it looks better than ever.

Panicum 'Cloud Nine' flowers in autumn are delicate and tawny, a lovely frothy feel.

Our olive trees, Olea europaea 'Arbequina', have had a good year with a lot of fruit. All four trees died to the ground a year after I planted them due to an extreme winter. They have all rebounded and although are multi-stemmed vs. standard, are still lovely trees. Yes, we have harvested the olives and brined them in sea salt and they are quite tasty (small, but good).

A bit of good color on Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'

Looking north through the labyrinth garden. Lots of evergreen shrubs and grasses for sun keep it interesting (to me, anyhow) year-round. The Salix angustifolia in the center will change colors (hopefully) to a golden yellow late in the season then drop its leaves. It's a nice contrast to this rather silvery part of the garden.

The end of spectacular color on Japanese maples.

Euphorbia rigida with its outlined-in-red leaves this time of the year.

Muhlenbergia rigens, our native deer grass, is an evergreen grass that sports these amazing flower stalks very late in the season. When we have a bit of frost they look especially dazzling.

Hardy fuchsias had a rough year, but a few are still putting on a show. Fuchsia 'Hawkshead' is a favorite and gets a little better every passing year.

Rounding it out with our native licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza, a summer dormant fern that makes itself right at home all winter into spring on tree trunks, logs, rocks and damp places throughout our region. Its appearance in my garden means that rains have arrived and we are shifting into a cooler, wetter season. While I adore summer, I am very ready for now, autumn, and for winter, as it means a break for us. Not working our asses off seven days a week, rather I can actually take a day off, go for a hike with FM or do some serious cooking or maybe a day trip to the coast without worrying about the veggie garden, watering, canning (that's all done), processing food, etc. It's a physical and mental break that is much needed. Hopefully, with our recent rearranges in the garden to reduce water thirsty plants, next summer might not be as hectic. Here's to hope.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. I hope you've enjoyed a peek at a little bit of the grand finale here, we're sure glad we have one at all this year. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! May your autumn be mild and your garden beautiful. Happy gardening!

To those of you asking about Joy Creek Nursery, yes there was a fire last week at Mike's home in the center of it all. While the retail nursery and mail order have been closed permanently as of last November, Mike and the landscape department have been going strong so this was especially unfortunate. Mike's home and the Joy Creek office did burn to the ground, but they plan to carry on and rebuild in true Joy Creek spirit. The gardens are fine, miraculously. Thank you to everyone who has reached out, everyone is safe and sound including Yowler the orange fur ball who is, although annoyed in typical cat fashion, fine and healthy. 


  1. Beautiful shots of fall color. The best thing about project lists is ticking things off. Enjoy your break!

    1. That's SO satisfying, ticking off things off of a "to-do" list. Love it. Aaah....

  2. Anonymous6:22 AM PST

    I'm glad you'll be able to rest and replenish now that most of your to do list is checked off. This is how I feel about winter as well: time to rest and replenish. My time in the garden will consist mostly of wandering around day dreaming.
    The 'sneak peek' photo with a glimpse into your future mature garden is gorgeous! I am astounded every time I review older garden photos, as it takes no time at all to 'fill in'.
    Still in love with Phlomis russelliana (thanks to you): its the only must have on my list for next year.
    This is the 'glory time' for Miscanthus sinensis... just before winter does it in.
    Where does your licorice fern grow?
    I'm happy to learn Mike and Yowler survived the fire. Such a trauma! (Yowler has 8 more lives).

    1. Day's to that! We don't do enough of it in my opinion. It has been a great practice to photograph the garden regularly as yes, it illustrates how much it changes and how quickly, despite our perception that it's slow.

      The licorice fern grows on a stump in the shade garden - actually through a ball of moss on the stump. It goes completely dormant in summer and now looks as fresh as a spring day. They are in the millions in a few parks around my home this time of the year and are so beautiful.

      Thanks for your well wishes about the nursery. Yes, Yowler is so lucky. He's pissed off he no longer has the same "front door" to go through, but he's well taken care of and enjoying his best life. Cheers!

  3. Looking great Tamara, I can't believe another gardening year has gone by and I didn't make it out to visit. I fell hard for Salvia confertiflora when I saw it in most of the NYC gardens I visited a few weeks ago, do you grow it as an annual?

    1. Thank you, Loree, I too can't believe it's been a year and it goes both ways, I need/would love to get out to see your paradise. The salvia I grow in a container and overwinter in the greenhouse. It's quickly outgrown two containers, it wants to be huge!

  4. Anonymous10:19 AM PST

    You've captured quite a few of my favorite things about this time of year. It's nice to have a little bit of breathing room. Maybe next year I will try planting our olive in the ground. Glad I didn't this year as it's been dipping down into the lower 20s.

    1. Breathing room is a welcome thing around here, for sure. Yes, I would encourage planting your olive in the ground - definitely in spring to give it time to establish before winter. I am surprised how hardy these are.

  5. I learn so much from these posts, thank you! Good to know there's tough plants like Olearia lineata. I'm trying a 'Ghostly' arcto in the front garden, but the soil is heavy and rich so not a great recipe for success. Your attitude and garden gives me courage!

    1. Thank you for your encouragement, it keeps me going - so a seemingly symbiotic relationship between us ;)

      Yes, Olearia is a good one for us - and Arctostaphylos 'Ghostly' looked terrible in my garden for the first three or so years - it's only these last two that it has grown and looks great. It's in poor soil and I think it appreciates good air circulation. Just an observation.

  6. Anonymous10:04 AM PST

    Your garden is still showing it's lovely Fall colours. It's my favourite time of season too as the season is done and there's not much to do other than appreciate the decline into winter. Fall extended quite late here too but came to an abrupt halt with a heavy snowfall. Unfortunately, many of the plants were still going strong so got buried. Not much showing above the snow this winter. Sorry to hear about Mike's house and shop. Horrible thing to happen.

    1. Appreciating fall is something I love, not ready for snow myself. Where are you? Early and late snow makes me cringe....sheesh. Yes, Mike and co. - terrible event. We're glad everyone is safe and they now have an on-site portable trailer office to keep it all going. Amazing.

    2. we are just outside of Calgary, Alberta. Our seasons tend to be short and intense with unpredictable weather. Makes gardening a challenge at times.


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