The Fall Color Project 2010 – Pennsylvania Style

– Posted in: Garden Design

Fall Color Project Badge 2010 For the last several years, Dave at The Home Garden has been hosting The Fall Color Project: a meme to track the progress of peak fall foliage color. And every year, I have trouble figuring out the perfect time to do my post. This autumn, I think we’re lucky to have any fall color, after the drought stress of the summer and the heavy rains and winds of the last two weeks. Some trees are already bare, while others are just now starting to color up.

Sorghastrum nutans at farm Oct 11 10

My favorite meadow is mostly blond right now, but well, that counts as a color. It looks like a solid stand of Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), but some little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) has moved in over the last few years.

Meadow at farm with Microstegium vimineum and Asclepias syriaca Oct 11 10

Some of the other fields on my parents’ farm (above and below) are more colorful. Unfortunately, that pretty coppery haze is from Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum), an invasive annual grass. These fields were hayed in July, and the stilt grass was pretty much the only thing that grew back during the summer drought.

Meadow at farm Oct 11 10

Meadow at farm with Solidago Oct 11 10

We usually mow the fields closer to the woods only every few years, in early spring, and they are much more diverse. Hooray for glorious goldenrods, among other beauties.

Hedgerow at farm with Sassafras albidum Oct 11 10

In the hedgerows, the flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) are about ready to drop their red leaves, but the sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – above and below –  are just starting to color up.

Sassafras albidum Oct 11 10

Carya ovata  fall color Oct 11 10

The shagbark hickories (Carya ovata) – above and below – are a dependable source of yellow fall color.

Carya ovata fall color Oct 11 10

Hedgerow at farm with Tilia americana Oct 11 10

I don’t recall the American lindens (Tilia americana) – above and below – being such a bright yellow other years, though.

Tilia americana fall color Oct 11 10

Meadow at Hayefield Oct 11 10

Back home at Hayefield – above and below – the meadow colors are mostly tans and rusts from the grasses, yellow from the goldenrods, and bright greens from the Eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana).

Meadow at Hayefield with Solidago and Sorghastrum and Juniperus virginiana Oct 11 10

Wild Rubus fall color Oct 11 10

Closer to ground level, there are small splashes of intensity, such as the bright red of a wild blackberry (Rubus fruticosus, I think).

In The Shrubbery, there are some other wonderful reds:

Viburnum plicatum fall color Oct 11 10

Viburnum plicatum (above and below).

Viburnum plicatum fall color Oct 11 10

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Gingerbread' fall color Oct 11 10

Above, ‘Gingerbread’ witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia); below, ‘Grace’ hybrid smokebush (Cotinus).

Cotinus 'Grace' fall color Oct 11 10

Stewartia fall color Oct 11 10

Above, a stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, I think); below, cutleaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’).

Rhus typhina 'Laciniata' fall color Oct 11 10

It’s easy to see why trees and shrubs get all the press for showy fall foliage, but many of my most favorite autumn leaf colors are from herbaceous perennials in the garden.

Amsonia hubrichtii fall color Oct 11 10

Above is a patch of Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) that had been very drought-stressed earlier, looking especially showy right now in combination with goldenrods, asters, and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) seedheads.

Below, golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia).

Patrinia scabiosifolia fall color Oct 11 10

Gillenia (Porteranthus) stipulata fall color Oct 11 10

Above, Bowman’s root (Gillenia stipulata); below, flame grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’).

Miscanthus 'Purpurascens' fall color Oct 11 10

Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues' with Panicum amarum 'Dewey Blue' and Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' Oct 11 10

Above, ‘The Blues’ little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) with ‘Dewey Blue’ switch grass (Panicum amarum) and ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora).

Below, a few pretty yellows, starting with shredded umbrella plant (Syneilesis aconitifolia).

Syneilesis aconitifolia fall color Oct 12 10

Eupatorium maculatum with Helleborus foetidus and Gillenia stipulata Oct 11 10

Above, Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) with Helleborus foetidus, ‘Angelina’ sedum, and Bowman’s root.

Below, giant coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima) with ‘Cassian’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) and ‘Northwind’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum).

Rudbeckia maxima with Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Cassian' and Panicum virgatum 'Northwind' Oct 11 10

Belamcanda chinensis (fall color) with 'Redbor' kale and Rosa 'Radrazz' Oct 11 10

And above, blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) with ‘Redbor’ kale and Knock Out roses (Rosa ‘Radrazz’). Hey – how did those flowers sneak in? I’d better stop here and save the remaining floral action for Bloom Day at Hayefield on Friday. For now, visit Dave’s main Fall Color Project 2010 page and his Friday updates to find more fall color posts from other parts of the country.

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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Dave October 13, 2010, 8:14 am


Thanks for joining in! I’ve been wondering how things would work out with the temperamental weather we’ve been having this year. Around here we have much the same situation as you do leaves falling before fully changing color. Disappointing but it does make you look for the color and maybe appreciate it more! I love the viburnums and that stewartia looks good too! You can never say enough though for those ornamental grasses!

I’m glad that I was able to participate again this year, Dave. Not so many good wide views as last year, but you’re right – you can still find some gems if you look closely.

Lois J. de Vries October 14, 2010, 7:33 am

We returned home from the GWA symposium to find the leaves on smaller trees and shrubs fried from the wind and lack of rain, but some of the bigger trees, oaks, maples, etc. managed to hold onto their leaves and color up. The sugar maples in a nearby development look particularly good.


For some reason, the opposite seems true around here (on the farm, anyway): many of the large trees defoliated early, but the smaller trees held most of their leaves. Who knows? As usual with fall color, we just enjoy what we get.

Bonnie October 14, 2010, 9:09 am

MAGNIFICENT! Thanks for sharing this beauty.

I’m delighted that you enjoyed the tour, Bonnie. I hope you’re enjoying some great color where you are.

Janet/Plantaliscious October 15, 2010, 7:26 am

Beautiful! I feel as if I have just taken a stroll around your local area. Such soft and lovely colours – pity some of them come from weeds problematic to the farmer.

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