Monday, December 10, 2012

Autumn colors encore in my backyard

In Central Indiana, the annual show of autumn colors usually ends in mid- to late October, and for the past two years, the show was far less spectacular and lengthy than usual because of summer drought conditions. But in recent years, I've been able to enjoy a sort of extended show in my backyard, thanks to a handful of plants, only two of which I put into the ground knowing about the fall color benefits.

Five years ago, I put two mature -- but still somewhat small -- Henry's Garnet Virginia Sweetspire (itea virginica) bushes on opposite ends of a 5' x 19' garden along the back fence line, a wood-bordered patch I inherited when buying the property 21 years ago. I had never done anything with that patch until the fall that the Garnets went into the garden, and I was rewarded for choosing those bushes several months after putting them into the ground.

The Garnets are known for their three-season splendor -- pretty white blossoms in spring, rich green foliage in summer and then the burning red leaves in autumn. So when I saw the white blossoms in the Garnets' first spring, I was very pleased. True to form, they delivered the rich green foliage in summer and spectacular reds in the fall. Two years ago, wanting to add some fall color to my front garden, I put two Garnets there as well. (Quick aside: If you're interested in checking out these plants further, be aware that the Garnets expand -- upward and sideways -- so if you get some, allow for sideways rooting and for periodic trimmings if you want to keep them somewhat contained).

Two summers ago, when I put a strawberry plant in my 3' x 26' foot backyard Genus garden (a name I gave it -- a long story), a converted grass patch between two old-fashioned concrete driveway strips, I had no idea its foliage would become a fall spectacle of reds, oranges and even spot yellows and burgundys, mixed in with the green. A good example of a mixture is the photo leading off this post. I got a good hint of that in autumn 2011, well before the plant yielded its first fruit.

This year, not only did I enjoy the first harvest from the strawberries but got an even more colorful foliage show in the plant's second autumn, highlighted by the shoot I decided to do on Dec. 6, just a few days ago. It was the morning of the last sun we would see before a prolonged rain, cold and heavy cloud system settled over Central Indiana (a system still lingering today, four days later). The strawberry plant's reds and greens dominate, providing an apt yuletide highlight that I find myself gazing at through my kitchen window quite often these days.

This summer, I put two blueberry bushes into the fence line garden, again not knowing anything about what would happen to its foliage in fall. What happens, I've learned, is that the leaves turn a dark red, though they don't linger nearly as long as the foliage on the Garnets and strawberries. The blueberry foliage you see in today's post were the last two or three leaves on one of the bushes.

So today's post toasts those glorious colors ... and the fourth anniversary of Photo Potpourri, which launched this month in 2008.

Above and next five below: Looks at the early December strawberry plant foliage, including -- in the fifth frame -- a striking burgundy/grape color.

Above and next two below: Remaining foliage on one of the blueberry plants. The one above and below feature alternating selective focus on the same foliage.

Above and next three below: Foliage from the Henry's Garnet Virginia Sweetspire bushes. 

Above: A final photo from my backyard circular garden, where my alyssum annuals -- alongside a lingering leaf or two, proved to be hardy, surviving three frosts before succumbing to an overnight freeze the day after this was taken. Several pentuias annuals along the south side of my home likewise survived several frosts before the aforementioned freeze got them. My petunias in the front garden weren't as fortunate. They survived the first two frosts, but not the third. 

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