In the Garden

Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener


     I am thankful for my garden.  It is my place of release and relaxation, even though most of the time I spend there I am working very hard.  It is my place of exercise and my place of wonder.  It does not matter how many times I see the sun set from the top of the cliff, I marvel at the beauty.  The colors of autumn in the gulf below make sunsets particularly beautiful this time of the year.

     Sandhill Gardens is a place of great diversity, and that results in great fall color.  I have several different types of maple trees, with fall foliage from yellow to deep red to a rosy mauve.  The Japanese maples add even more color options.  Burgundy and orange leaves shine above stems that turn bright pink for the winter.  There are about a dozen different types of dogwoods in the gardens, and each variety has a different hue in the leaves.  While most are in the red range, they run the gamut from a deep wine to bright cherry red.  Of course, the osier dogwoods, such as the red and yellow twigged types, produce even more vivid colors on the young twigs.  If your osier dogwood is not as bright as it used to be, you may want to prune it back severely before spring to promote new growth next year.  To maintain shrubs with good color, cut the older brown stems to the ground.  If you cut out a third of the stems each year, the shrub will always produce color for the cool months.

     Perhaps my favorite shrub for autumn color is the oak-leaf hydrangea.  It is hard to really describe the color of the relatively-large leaves.  They retain much of their deep green of summer, but are streaked with a deep burgundy and some deep brown.  They retain the leaves much longer than most trees, and even when they lose the leaves, the exfoliating bark beneath continues to create interest in the bleakness of winter.  Most of them retain their dried flower panicles, which are rather large.  The papery brown hue stands out against the foliage and the bark and make great additions to dried-flower bouquets.

    Other trees at Sandhill Gardens that add autumn interest include serviceberry, quaking aspen, river birch, and Franklinia.  A few years ago, most of those trees were hard to find in nurseries, but, in recent years, they have become more widely available.  Look for them at nurseries in the spring to add to your garden for many future years.

     Green is still a color, even in fall.  The many evergreens that I have been planting at Sandhill Gardens add a lot of color at all times.  The colors of fall look even brighter when they are in front of a deep green background.  The very term “evergreen” is a little misleading.  The greens range from pea-green to emerald, but others have a decidedly blue cast.  Some have yellow accents and others are almost completely gold.  Even some of the green trees get a rusty overtone during the winter.  That adds up to a lot of diversity and color interest.

     The berries also provide color and interest in the fall and winter landscape.  The purple of beautyberry will last as long as the birds leave some on the shrubs.  Firethorns produce berries in shades of yellow and orange.  They are often mistaken for bittersweet, which, unfortunately, is not found at Sandhill Gardens.

     Perhaps the most attractive berries are from the many types of holly found in the gardens.  Everyone associates red berries with holly, and, indeed, those boughs of holly with red berries are classic decorations at Christmas.  The red berries of winterberry or deciduous holly also stick around for much of winter.  However, not all holly berries are red.  Some are yellow, orange and even black, and all bring some color to the garden.

     As you see, I have a lot for which to be thankful.  Come out and enjoy the diversity of Sandhill Gardens or take my advice and add something colorful to your garden in the spring.


Please Login for Premium Content

Site Login Help

For current subscribers to The Salem Leader and The Salem Democrat, you can login to the site using the following information:

Username: Please use your full email address associated with your account
Password: Please use your last name. Passwords are case sensitive, so please capitalize your last name (eg: Smith)