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GardenSMART :: Finding Beauty in the Fall Landscape

Finding Beauty in the Fall Landscape

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners

Are you sad that the summer gardening season is over? There's still plenty to enjoy outdoors, if you can train your eye to appreciate the "beauty of decay." It's all about learning to look at the garden from a different perspective to find the magic hidden under the fallen leaves.

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Photo courtesy of Susan Martin.

This time of year, the balance of nature shifts from vibrant floral displays to the more subdued beauty of plants that are preparing for a long winter's nap. You could see it as a melancholy occasion and mourn the loss of your seasonal blooms. Or, you could choose to find the beauty in it all, to give thanks for the great bounty of favors the garden has graciously bestowed upon you this season.

World-renowned "garden maker" Piet Oudolf explains it this way: "An acceptance of natural rhythms is also a part of acceptance of the supremacy of nature, that death and decay are a part of life, for without their part in the eternal circle of rebirth there would be no material to feed the next generation. Acceptance of death is an important part of developing a relationship in the garden and decaying leaves have a role, and even sometimes a beauty of their own." (Designing with Plants, Timber Press 1999)

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Photo courtesy of Susan Martin.

When you see this picture of Little Goblin® Red winterberry (Ilex verticillata), do you first notice its speckled leaves that are preparing to fall or do you see the zest for life contained within its persistent red fruits? It is possible to train your eye to see the "beauty in the decay," as Oudolf is fond of teaching.

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Photo courtesy of Susan Martin.

Similarly, when you pass by your Lemony Lace® elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) in fall, do you notice its royal purple buds fattening up for winter? Once its lacy foliage falls, it is even easier to appreciate them. Give them a little squeeze—be gentle!—and you'll feel all the stored energy they contain surging between your fingertips. You'll be amazed how they persist unscathed through the cold and snowy winter months, waiting to pop open on the first warm day of spring.

There is beauty everywhere you look in the fall garden, if you just learn how to see it. It may not come in the obvious form of an overflowing basket of Supertunia Vista® Bubblegum® petunias, but it is surely there. A pair of acorns still attached at the stem, as if they couldn't bear to be separated when they fell from the oak tree…the richest golden hues of a big-leafed hosta that's been kissed by frost…the intense green contrast of evergreen boughs that move to center stage in the dormant garden. Fall magic is everywhere.

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Photo courtesy of Susan Martin.    

As you walk through your garden, gather bits and pieces to fill your window box. A few colorful stems from the red twig dogwoods, some powder blue sprigs from the Colorado blue spruce and green false cypress, and the berried branches of Berry Heavy® Gold winterberry (Ilex verticillata) work together to create perfect harmony in this rustic hayrack. This video will show you how we created it.

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Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.

Gather a basket of dried blossoms from your panicle hydrangeas (H. paniculata) and smooth hydrangeas (H. arborescens) to make a fall wreath or arrangement. See how we made this one here. Since both of these types of hydrangeas set their buds on the stems next spring, you won't be harming them at all by cutting their branches now.

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Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.

Your garden is giving and forgiving by nature. It wants you to enjoy everything it offers, so release your inhibitions about cutting its flowers and berries, give thanks for all the beauty it has gifted you, and wish your plants a fond farewell until their rebirth next spring. To everything there is a season. 

Contributor Bio: Susan Martin is an avid zone 6 gardener, garden writer and speaker who enjoys spreading her passion for plants to her fellow gardeners. Follow her on Facebook @Gardener Sue's News.

 

Patent Info: 'Limelight' Hydrangea paniculata USPP12874 CanPBR2319; Little Goblin® Red Ilex verticillata USPP27109 CanPBRAF; Lemony Lace® Sambucus racemosa USPP26613 CanPBRAF; Soft Serve® Chamaecyparis pisifera USPP20883

 


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