uh-oh, or yippee? which is it for you?

fall-leaves-startTHE FIRST COLD NIGHTS AND FIRST FLAME-COLORED LEAVES stir a mixed well of emotions: “Thank goodness,” I think, and then, “Why can’t it last?” Frankly, I am as burned out as my garden at this point, and will be happy to be free of from twice-weekly mowing and lusty weeds. I say that, however, as someone whose best gardening season is yet to come. Some hints of it are showing already:

viburnum-sieboldiiVarious of the many viburnums here are already devoured, but V. sieboldii is partway ready for avian visitors (above), and the many smaller yellow fruits of V. dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’ are really coloring up nicely, too (below).

michael-dodge-viburnumMany plants have had a good fruit set because of extra-heavy rainfall, including the golden-leaved Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas ‘Aurea,’ below). The birds have taken most of them already.

cornelian-cherriesMy favorite large-fruited crabapple, ‘Ralph Shay’ (bottom photo) is getting ripe, and its many smaller-fruited cousins are soon to come into their own as well.

Still ahead: Dozens and dozens of shrubby winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata), which are mostly still all green but covered in berries. They’ll rate a whole post of their own once they’re ready, once they’ve gone golden or tangerine or fire-engine red and dropped their leaves. Stay tuned on that score.

So which is it now as you look out your window: What lies ahead? Is it uh-oh, or yippee over there?ralph-shay-crab

Categoriestrees & shrubs
  1. Brian G. says:

    I saw the leaves this weekend. Too soon, too soon! I’m in denial. I’m convinced it is a wide-spread leaf rust or something. Yeah, that’s it. Fingers in ears, La, La, La!

  2. Kathy Klaus says:

    Margaret, If we could just shorten January, February, and March…. I feel sad to see summer slip away but the seasonal changes in the garden intrigue me and fall is fantastic, waiting for spring gets to me.

  3. margaret says:

    Welcome, Kathy Klaus. I think you are in good company among those who would gladly give back some of January and February and even March. Do stop in again soon.

  4. margaret says:

    Welcome, Minna, all the way from Sweden. I have just made a quick trip there, to your Blomsterverkstad, and am feeling very sheepish about my own paltry attempts at flower arranging and craftiness now. Beautiful! Please do join us regularly.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Those leaves are awesome, Margaret! I’d love to press them.
    My choice would be to stay right here…right between summer and fall, and enjoy the best of both.

  6. Julia says:

    Reading all these responses I wonder, does it come down to how old you are, which zone you grow in, or just your temperament? I used to love each season in its turn, but as I grow older I dread the winters more each year. This year I plan to overcompensate by planting 1,000 bulbs in my front yard. And daydream about moving to zone 7. Or maybe 8.

  7. Dear Margaret! My first visit on your fantastic blog! Love gardening, but don’t know that much about it yet. I mostly collect material from my garden (that was there when we moved in) and from the nature around us. Love making wreaths and arrangements! I’ll be back for more :))) Hugs from Sweden, Minna : )

  8. Remember a while ago when you wrote about the frustration of gardening.. when things are at that ‘in-between’ stage and so forth? This time of year brings that frustration to light again. It’s been very dry, and no amount of watering seems to fulfill the needs of the beautiful gardens.. I’m ready. I’m ready for the season change. My partner David refers to my readiness for the season change as ‘retail mindset;’ always ready for the next one. It’s been a great year (especially having a fun place to share!) but it’s time for change (and cooler weather!)

  9. denden8148 says:

    i look at it this way…if fall is coming, can spring be that far away? thanks for opening your garden for copake falls day. i have been inspired! also thanks for the weigela cuttings & lamium. i hope jack is enjoying the ‘kitty treats’..

  10. Donna Oglesby says:

    Guilty of “retail mindset” here. I love the new beginnings fall brings and anxiously await the arrival of the UPS truck carrying goodies from magical sources like Khems and Plants Delight scheduled for after Labor Day. I have prepared a new shade bed and another new bed in full sun ready to receive the chosen plants. I began digging and dividing existing plants yesterday for the great fall transplant fest. We’ve had a fantastic growing season and many of my plants are ready to divide and conquer. This autumn — after the rainiest summer on Cape Cod in 50 years — the show should be spectacular.

  11. gardenden says:

    I, too, saw that smattering scattering of red and orange along the Taconic…
    The mountain ash is full of red berries, and the leaves have that “dry rustle” when the breezes blow.

    You can feel it and hear it—even the set of the moon tells us that autumn is on the way.

    Busy, busy. Plants to divide, plants to relocate.

    Apple picking! Hot cider! Each season has its pleasures.

    ” To everything, turn, turn, turn.”

  12. cat says:

    I can’t wait! I was out today hauling hose – we haven’t had any rain since the 15th – and glowering at the absolutely rampageous crabgrass. The sweat was dripping in my eyes, but I could still see everything that was drooping, browning or giving up. Enough!

    Fall is my favorite season for the outdoors. I love the colder weather and would never trade it for more southern climes. Bring on the colors, the rustle of leaves, the snap in the air, the berries, birds and first frost. Ah-h-h-h.

  13. Tammy says:


    You guys are sooo lucky. I’m a definite Yipee! However, our fall will have to wait awhile. Temps are only down to 90’s from 100’s which is a break, but NOT fall yet here in north Texas.

  14. joyce says:

    Not so yippee. Whatever happened to the “dog days of August”?? Not this summer, I guess. This week it will only hit 80 degrees after today. Even hearing the crickets (the harbingers of fall) at night brings some sadness as the days start to get shorter… The feeling is akin to the sense of dread I’ve always felt when it stops snowing.
    On a more positive note, I do look forward to the colors of Fall — the asters, mums and grasses.

  15. Jeff says:

    Yippee! The dog who is always too cold and the dog who is always too hot love this weather. They will strike extended yoga poses as the mornings grow colder.

    There is a glow to early mornings and evenings, but I won’t remember high school lit to qualify the sight.

    My amaryllis are begging me for space in the basement crisper, but it’s too soon. I’ll depress them with views of the washer/dryer for a few weeks.

    My WTF? perennial patch has survived my best efforts. I’ll give each plant a real home soon – they were one of those ‘5 season garden for just 79.99’ deals. What kind of plants? Some are red. Some… are not red.

  16. Pam/Digging says:

    Fall can’t come quickly enough for this Texas gardener. Plus it seems that October is pretty darn gorgeous no matter what part of the country you live in. Bring it on!

  17. jo says:

    Hello Margaret,

    What an amazingly thorough weblog. Lovely to read you.

    My blog name clownplants.com says it all: misery me all summer. Autumn is usually my high time, with acres of coloured shrubs. This year it looks like a damp squib, with many leaves colouring too early and not attractively either.

    Do you know what the influence of too much rain and too little sun is on the fall colouring performance? I always forget this. I suppose to colour up well the leaves require a high sugar level, which means sunshine. No?

  18. margaret says:

    Welcome, Jo. There are some clownplants over here, too, at this point…serious ones. As for the foliage, this page explains the biological and meteorological factors at work. Conducive circumstances have to do w/a combination of moisture and temperature and various other factors.
    Ideal foliage is apparently produced by a warm and wet spring, a warm, dry summer (uh-oh!) and mild, sunny fall days with cool evenings (but not frost). Again, have a look for more in-depth explanation.
    I kept saying as it teemed rain all summer: Great for fall foliage, great for fall foliage. But who knows, maybe not. Thanks for visiting, and sharing your site.

  19. Beth says:

    I’m definitely a yippee and I know that sounds strange since I live in North Dakota and who gets excited about one of our winters?!?!? But the fall here is beautiful and I love the warm days and cool nights. At the end of August, I can honestly say that I enjoyed my garden and I can get ready for a quiet winter with no regrets on what I should or shouldn’t have done.

  20. turling says:

    A yippee this year. We’ve moved into a new home and have gutted, practically, the whole yard. We just have mulch, EVERYWHERE. Now, with the cooler weather, we can actually start planting. (Granted, I’m in Southern California and we still have three months before cooler weather, but there is always hope.)

  21. bluearrow says:

    I love to mow.
    I love summer.
    there will be all those menu changes down at the local eatery yes?
    and looking forward to fall cocktail hour(s) of course!

  22. Lynn says:

    frightened of my first full-length central NY winter. frightened! Fall came in mid-August (nights in the 40s?!) as I was warned it would. I’ll miss bare feet and endless changing flowers, but must submit to the “change is the only constant” approach, enjoy the cool and time to plan, and wait to see if over-wintered seeds pop up next spring.

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