Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Last of the Fiery Fall Color

As we turn the calendar page to December, unseasonably cold weather is upon us. Our highs were 20 degrees below our average for January. Night time temperatures dropped below freezing several times already. This put most of the garden into an early winter slumber.

Typically we are still gardening into December, planting trees and shrubs that get their roots established over the wet winter and cooler spring. The kitchen beds are usually filled with cold season veg and we often see native bees and butterflies on sunny days. Not so much this December as we are unseasonably cold with our standard wet. 


There are a few resilient plants that loose their chlorophyll later in the season and are just now showing us their autumn color before they drop their foliage.

The leaves on our Fothergilla 'Mt. Airy' shrubs have lingered for an extended time. This native shrub puts on some big fall color with a multicolor display of yellows, oranges and reds with the presence of the carotenoids and xanthophylls as the chlorophyll breaks down.

Fothergilla 'Mt. Airy'


On sunny days the blueberry shrubs appear to be on fire with intense oranges to deep reds. Blueberries are spectacular and not only provide delicious fruit during the summer months but deliver late season color to the garden. Try planting them in your landscape amongst your ornamentals. Highbush blueberries make a better landscape choice than the invasive Euonymus alatus (Burning Bush) or Nandina domestica (Nandina or Heavenly Bamboo), which is responsible for the deaths of flocks of Cedar Waxwing birds here in Georgia.

native blueberries

native blueberries

Dogwood cornus 'Celestial Shadow', a disease resistant hybrid, which carries green and yellow variegated leaves spring to summer now has deep red foliage that really stands out in the woodland garden.

Dogwood 'Celestial Shadow'

Dogwood 'Celestial Shadow'

The Franklinia alatamaha tree has adorned beautiful orange to red foliage, which has now transitioned to a deep purple with the appearance of the anthocyanins that are manufactured from the sugars trapped in the leaves.

Franklinia alatamaha

We are relishing the last vibrant colors the garden is offering before the winter solstice is upon us and we inevitably spend less time in the garden and more time growing indoors.

6 comments:

  1. The gloss and colour on the Franklinia alatamaha leaves is just gorgeous!

    We had a super early winter too, while autumn barely paid a visit, which is a shame as this also meant fall colour was fleeting this year (as was the opportunity to catch up in the garden!).

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    1. We've been up and down with the temperatures this fall/winter. SO much rain and I still have planting to do and maintenance and the weather just isn't cooperating with my schedule. My kitchen beds still need to be cleaned up! I may have some surprises come spring with self sowing plants.

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  2. Wow! That makes up for the cool temperatures for sure.

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  4. Those colors are absolutely stunning. I wish we had such a beautiful array. While we do have some fall/winter color, there isn't much. We have 2 night freezes scheduled for this week, but nothing like you're dealing with. Stay warm!

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  5. Hi Karin, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and best wishes for a great new gardening year! I planted several Mt. Airy fothergilla in early September, and they were among the last shrubs to assume fall colors this year. They were multi-colored and spectacular up to just a week or so ago. I don't know if this was because I just planted them a few months ago, or if I can expect late fall color every year. Yours were certainly gorgeous in December!

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