It took a while to arrive, and it didn't stick around--not for even an entire week--but I did finally get some good fall color this year. The unexpected star of the late show was this 'Diablo' (aka 'Monlo,' aka "Diabolo') purple ninebark, physocarpus opulifolius.
I don't know for sure that its Latin name means that its leaves are showy... but based on the plant's appearance I could easily buy that definition. It's a happy accident how well Diablo's fall leaves play off of the red-stained arbor post, but one that I'm looking forward to enjoying for years to come. Especially when the arbor is finally finished!
By the way, some of you who have your own ninebarks may be looking at mine and thinking, "Why are the leaves on her shrub so small?" That was my botanical mystery of the year! When I bought the plant last year its leaves were normal ninebark-sized. This year, I had these delicate tiny things instead. My guess is that our April cold snap came at exactly the right time in the leaf bud development to cause this. Any other theories?
The hostas finally came around as well... mostly. 'Northern Halo' added a lot of zing below the slowly-turning Japanese maple, and my unknown blue variety turned a warm golden shade.
Last year's favorite fall-color hosta, which burned electric in front of some 'Powis Castle' artemisia as seen in this post from October, barely turned any color at all before its leaves bleached out and blew away.
While digging up a link to that post, I discovered that most of my fall color last year came in late October, while this year I had to wait until November to enjoy the turning of the foliage. Discoveries like this really make me happy that I have this blog for reference... especially since I can't seem to maintain a proper written garden journal for some reason. And my memory is sometimes a steel trap, and other times a rusty sieve, so I don't particularly like to rely on it!
One thing I apparently did remember correctly, however, was the rich autumnal tones of my oakleaf hydrangea last year. I ran outside to take a current picture for comparison, and you can see that the top leaves are starting to get the idea but the rest of the plant is still mostly green.
You can also see that the plant is packed all around with leaves from the basswood tree in my treelawn. I love the way the leaves seem to "tuck things in," so unless I know that the plant should not have any extra winter mulch (for example, with lavender) I generally leave the plants with their little foot-blankets throughout the winter.
My biggest disappointments in terms of fall color were my grasses. The sorgahstrum nutens began to take on some gold tones but then bleached out quickly. 'Morning Light' miscanthus faded quickly into a straw-esque ghost of its former self, and did nothing to pick up the dark tones of the 'Black Beauty' elder in front of it. In mid-November, the neighbor's beech leaves were falling but only the seedheads on my little bluestems gave a hint that they realized how late it was in the season.
But finally, they turned. I know that I "shouldn't" like this combination of warm pink foliage and orange pyracantha berries, but I do. The color, the texture, and the unexpectedness of this combination just does something that makes me smile.
And with that smile on my face, I'd better end this post and get outside. Someone had the bad sense to go out and purchase another 40-some daffodils, 20 more species tulips and the last of the nectaroscordium at her local garden center the other day. (But I had been looking for the cute, short yellow tulip tarda... and the nectaroscordium is also called honey garlic. How could I resist something called honey garlic?!) With winter weather moving in and daylight fading fast, I'd best bundle up and get to it!