Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

The season turns: first light frosts

November 14, 2013

Post image for The season turns:  first light frosts

The first light frosts are bringing this growing season to its end. Some grasses have long ago turned to shades of orange, brown, gold and yellow; others are still green. The big perennials–Silphium, Inula, Rudbeckia maxima, Vernonia, Joe Pye Weed–are now becoming sculpture; their dark, leaden-brown structures will last through most of winter.

Above and below, looking out from the narrow terrace outside the house, the main part of the garden is invisible.








Descending into the main garden, you’re immersed in the plantings.  It’s a dramatic transition, a sudden change in scale. The garden “swallows” you, many plants are taller than you, as you wander along corridors and paths that open, then close views, and create new smaller, multilayered, textured scenes. It’s like descending into a crater, with a giant circle of sky above.


I emptied the pond of water (below) so we can clean out the plant growth and put in a bottom liner. Not to better hold water (the heavy clay does that well) but to prevent plant growth. Next year, I want a clear expanse of water to contrast with the riotous growth surrounding it.




Extraordinarily beautiful foliage of Silphium laciniatum, a study in shape and texture. Note the fine hairs lit by the morning sun.


 Remnants of Sanguisorba canadensis by the pond.


Colors slowly developing in a mixed planting–Viburnum, Aster tartaricus in yellow, Silphium perfoliatum in black, Iris pseudacorus still green.


 Contrast in shape, line, texture and color.


An almost hidden room …


… a wall …


…  Aster tartaricus ‘Jin Dai’–its foliage turns yellow then, as temperatures dip deeper, develops leaves of burnished orange.


Miscanthus and Rudbeckia maxima seedheads …


If my garden is a pean to seasonal change, this autumn shows how autumns can differ. The autumn garden usually has a colorful understory, but not this year. A summer of torrential rains, four to six inches each week, for many weeks, crushed the layers of smaller plants, which usually add  variety in color and texture. But on the whole, the garden demonstrated amazing resilience. Today was like walking in clouds.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Like it? Share it...

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Weber November 14, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Beautiful photos, James…I adore this final act of the gardening year…full of drama. The vertical shot of the chairs and the tall blackened stems amidst the grasses is stunning…very gothic.


James Golden November 14, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Scott, thanks for that adjective. I haven’t thought my garden is gothic, but it certainly is at certain times of the year. Ha … a gothic garden. I like that.


Desert Dweller / David C. November 15, 2013 at 12:52 am

All those scenes, with that frosty hue I just don’t get (frosts here have no frost!)…stunning. But like Scott, “Gothic” came to my mind, and the curved swath through the tall plants and chairs on the pavers is off the chart appealing. Makes me want to get one of my sweaters on over heavy layers, and sip coffee out there.


James Golden November 17, 2013 at 10:46 pm

David, good to hear from you. We had a visitor from Tucson last week and she was extolling the landscape out there. Yes, I think Gothic is right for that picture.


Loree / danger garden November 15, 2013 at 1:02 am

That 6th photo just blows me away. So beautiful, we don’t often (if ever) get that sky in Portland in the fall.


James Golden November 17, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I think my ultraviolet filter helped get that blue sky. Thanks to Scott Weber of Rhone Street Garden for suggesting it.


Loree / danger garden November 15, 2013 at 1:03 am

p.s. not that the sky is what makes the photos of course. The sky with a summer scene would have just been ordinary. The way you captured it all is magic.


Christina November 15, 2013 at 2:09 am

This year each season has been so abnormal that my Miscanthus are only just beginning to flower, that usually happens at least a month earlier. Your grasses look wonderful as usual.


James Golden November 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Some of mine are coloring very late. I think it may be caused by our summer of heavy rains. You’re in Italy. I’d think miscanthus would be flowering early in your climate.


Cindy at enclos*ure November 15, 2013 at 7:15 am

What a good way to describe walking through tall grasses — like walking in clouds. I can really see it in your photos.


Laurrie November 16, 2013 at 7:23 pm

“the garden swallows you”. . . as you descend into it. I like that element of your garden and know exactly what that feels like now that I have visited. The grasses are so stunning now, this is their season. But my favorite is the pretty sweetbay magnolia just beyond the pond, all glittery, standing up above the waves of grasses.

I’m glad to see the natural pond will be opened up and cleared!


James Golden November 17, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Laurrie, I’m glad you noticed that little magnolia. It has struggled for years. Back when I didn’t have a deer exclusion fence, it was eaten almost to the ground. The soil is so unfriendly it’s taken six or seven years to recover. And it did color beautifully this year. Yea. We cleaned out and lined the pond, as you can see in my latest post.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: