Painted leaves

October is the month for painted leaves . . . ~Thoreau

While the garden is quietly collapsing back into the earth, the trees are a riot of color. Cold crisp nights dipping towards the freezing point have triggered the shift from soft green leaves to a paintbox of crisp autumn colors. Most of my time outside has been spent looking upwards, that’s where the drama is. (click on any photo to see a full size image)


October proved a riot a riot to the senses and climaxed those giddy last weeks before Halloween. ~Keith Donohue

A few tender plants linger – a coral Million Bells tucked under the spiral staircase, Gloriosa daisies in a planter on the deck, a mound of coral red ‘Sedona’ coleus in a protected corner of the house.


The herb circle in the front of the house remains lush, with tall grasses and creamy seedhead clouds of our native white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum)octoberherbcircle

along with a mound of tall blue ageratums self-sown from last year. ageratum

A few days ago, a flock of robins gathered for their flight south and indicated to me that they wanted their favorite watering bowl at the foot of the oaks cleaned and refilled. I obliged and they drank long and deep before taking to the skies. oakmaple

The leaves of the kousa dogwoods have turned a deep russet red kousaleaveswhile the wild grapevine leaves remain green even as their stems turn scarlet. wildgrapevineleaf

As I step outside each morning, a rich sweet smell arises from the earth, the scent of fallen fruit, decomposing leaves and rain soaked earth, the smell of true autumn. hardyplumbagoleaves

At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth . . .  ~Rainer Maria Rilke



37 thoughts on “Painted leaves

  1. We envy you your US autumn colours. At least in the UK we can borrow your prairie rudbeckias! Despite the first frost they are still giving us a good show. R. ‘Prairie Sun’ is my favourite variety.

    • Richard, I’ve heard that it was too rainy for good autumn color this year in the UK. Rudbeckias are wonderful plants, aren’t they? I have several along with multiple Echinaceas. I leave the seedheads on all winter to feed the birds, an extra bonus!

    • Thank you, Otto – I do love these colors as well, especially now that the sunlight is filtered through so much gold in the sky. There seem to be little spotlights of gold throughout the woods and outside our front door.

    • Snow already! We may have another week of color, which is at its glorious peak right now, then it will be gray and brown and maybe white until spring. Enjoy your winter – you have such an amazing new garden to dream of until spring 🙂

  2. I like “quietly collapsing back to earth.” The cool, cool lavender-blue of the ageratums is such a good complement to all the warm fall colors. How kind of them to self-sow. 😉 The Kousas are beautiful! Thank you for inviting us in again, Lynn, it’s always a pleasure.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Lynn. Yes, the ageratums were quite generous with their presence this year; I’ve stopped deadheading them so that I might get another bounty next year – love their color and height. They seem impervious to the chilly nights so far.

  3. Your post transports me back to my New England childhood! Here, in the the San Francisco Bay area, we simply do not get the bright colors of autumn. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Thanks for the fall colour ‘fix’! Next best thing to being there.
    We had an early winter (lots of snow) before fall really got started. The leaves pretty much just froze, turned brown, and are now dropping to the ground.

  5. Your fall garden (and words and photos) are beautiful. We have a wedding in the garden next fall. Her color scheme is blue. I will have to see if Ageratum will grow for us. Lovely!

    • Thanks, Audrey. The ageratum should grow well for you – these are the tall annual form developed for the cut flower trade which grow easily from seed – Ageratum houstonium ‘Blue Horizon’. They are also deer resistant, which is a plus for my unfenced front garden 🙂

  6. Gorgeous colours, just what autumn should look like. Instead we have relentless rain and soggy brownness. Love the Gloriosa Daisy. I didn’t know Rudbeckia by that name.

  7. I’ve been in south Texas for the past three weeks, where fall color is…let’s say it’s effectively non-existent. I’ll be returning to northern Illinois tomorrow where I hope things will hang on for another week or so. It would be a shame to miss the autumn color season this year, as your group of photos so aptly illustrates.

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