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The Thanksgiving Garden: Subtle Forms and Colors

November 27, 2010

I came home to Maine for Thanksgiving and found a very different garden than the one I had left when I was last here six weeks ago. Then, we had not yet had a serious frost and many flowers were still in bloom. Now, the garden is well along in its transformation to winter dormancy.

Empty seed pods of Baptisia australis (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) There is much beauty to be found in the garden at this time of year, but appreciating it requires close attention to subtle colors and forms. 

The empty seed pods of Baptisia Australis (False Indigo) are a rich dark brown,

Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne' seedheads (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) while the seedheads of Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ have a burnished gold undertone.
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The feathery foliage of Amsonia hubrechtii (Blue Star Flower) has faded from the intense golds of fall to a soft wheat color, and Solidago (goldenrod) has turned from gold to platinum.

Nnovember foliage of Amsonia hubrechtii (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Solidago gone to seed (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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I love the delicate look of Astilbe spires gone to seed, Astilbe seedheads (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Aruncus dioicus seedheads (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) and the intricate cascades of Aruncus dioicus (Goatsbeard).
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Shades of pink and violet are present in the seedheads of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ in the foliage of Heuchera ‘Rasbperry Ice,’ and in the leaves of oregano.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' in November (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Heuchera 'Raspberry Ice' leave (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Oregano in November (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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There is still a surprising amount of green in my mostly-dormant garden, including green leaves of hardy geraniums and Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) and fresh new growth of Linum perenne (flax).

Foliage of Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' in November (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) November leaves of unknown Geranium (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
A few green leaves on Alchemilla mollis in November (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) New November growth on Linum Perenne (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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young white pine tree (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) At this time of year, as the garden goes dormant, the conifers in the surrounding forest take center stage.  The needles on this young white pine (Pinus strobus), growing just behind the blue and yellow border, are a soft green.
I’m not sure of the identity of this low-growing conifer that occurs in several places on my property and around my neighborhood; I think it may be some kind of a Hemlock (Tsuga). Those who look at it closely are rewarded with this view of its lovely white and green striped needles. Low-growing conifer - Hemlock? (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Striped needle on low-growing conifer (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2010 9:50 pm

    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed returning to your Maine home and garden. Your photos are beautiful. It’s amazing how some plants fight the weather and continue to grow until a hard frost ends it for good.

  2. sequoiagardens permalink
    November 28, 2010 12:02 am

    My friend Moosey, or Mary, from Mooseyscountrygarden.com has a term for it: four-season-gardeners. So many people miss out on winter in their garden… but then she goes on to also comment on those of us who never put the garden to bed under a blanket of snow, and how she envies those who do experience that complete shutdown before spring starts. I find the starkness of winter a necessary interlude; gardening in the wet tropics so easily has a quality of constant claustrophobic growth; head down to the Kruger Park, and the dryness of winter makes up for the relative lack of cold in breakng down the summer’s growth.

  3. November 28, 2010 8:38 am

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, Jean! I hope you were able to be with friends and/or family during this time. I’m sure it was different this year, without your mom. Your photography really picks up the subtleties within the various plants in or near dormancy. It’s true that we can often miss this beauty unless we really look closely. Taking photos really does bring the beauty into focus–especially for those who might otherwise not take a moment to see with their own eyes. I sometimes forget the beauty that lies within my garden, especially when I am hurriedly coming-and-going. Thanks for taking the time to share these, reminding me that there is always something of beauty–regardless of the season;-)

  4. November 28, 2010 4:33 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving Jean! How wonderful you were able to come home to Maine and check in on your second garden. The changes must seem so much more drastic after having been away. Like you many of the plants here are dried in shades of gold and brown but also I see a few plants, like hardy geraniums, that are insistent on staying green. I’m amazed at their tenacity.

  5. November 28, 2010 7:10 pm

    Belated happy Thanksgiving, Jean. I am sure it was something of a shock, expected though it might be, to see the garden after your long absence. While November isn’t my favourite month, I remind myself that we need these lulls, to inspire us again for the spring and for new gardening adventures.

  6. December 7, 2010 7:05 pm

    Belated happy Thanksgiving, Jean. I like how you see the subtle beauty of this season, and I never knew astilbes (which I long to have in my own garden one day) end up with such lovely and delicate forms when they’ve gone to seed. Nice discovery for me. 🙂

    That first shot and the picture of the heuchera foliage among the fallen leaves are wonderful captures, by the way.

  7. December 8, 2010 11:30 pm

    Truly a subtly beautiful time of year as autumn joy leads to winter’s moods. The warm earth tones make for a gentle transition. Stille the final seven green photos could have us all believing you’re seeing the arrival of spring. I hope you have more chances to visit the garden to view the continuing changes. Those are the sorts of opportunities that I feel most thankful for.

  8. December 9, 2010 12:47 pm

    When we take the time to look, the seeds and pods are almost as beautiful as the flowers in many plants. Our garden, especially the natives, tends to be more dormant in mid-summer, before the rains return and help to bring the plants back to life. I’m impressed you still had so much green in your Thanksgiving garden so late in the season. Even much of ours has been nipped by frost, and it’s not even officially winter yet!

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