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Autumn Colors: GBBD, October 2020

October 18, 2020

As the days get shorter and cooler and the nights get colder, many of the plants in my Maine garden have already gone into dormancy. The foliage of plants like Hosta and Amsonia have turned from green to yellow, and many shrubs are sporting orange or red leaves.

Amsonia fall foliage viburnum fall foliage

red geraniumEven as overnight lows go down into the twenties, however, some flowers continue to bloom, and their scarcity makes these late blooms all the more special. Somehow this annual geranium (Pelargonium) has escaped multiple frosts and continues to bloom in its container.


The fall sedums are near the end of their bloom and have turned a deep wine red. Sedum Neon late color


hammamelis flowers october As the leaves fall from the trees, the fringy yellow flowers of our native witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) become visible along the edges of the woods.
coreopsis lanceolata late bloom coreopsis & iron butterfly

On the front slope, the lance-leaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) has opened new flowers, here blooming charmingly in front of Vernonia lettermanii ‘Iron Butterfly’ (a plant that lives up to its name by looking delicate but being tough as nails).fading asters

alma potschke flowersThe species New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), which were just beginning to bloom a month ago, are now fading fast. The cultivar ‘Alma Potschke,’ however, began to bloom later and is still going strong.

And the late-blooming smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) ‘Bluebird’ is at its peak in mid-October.

aster bluebird in bloom

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see October flowers in other gardens.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2020 12:03 am


  2. October 19, 2020 8:56 am

    Year after year, Symphytotrichum laevis ‘Bluebird’ is the best performing aster in my garden. It keeps its leaves (unlike the New Englands, which get so shabby) and it has a profusion of flowers. Do you have any plans to try smooth aster from seed and see what range of colors you get? Bluebird is the only cultivar, but a google search suggests that whites to pinks are possible.

    • November 1, 2020 7:55 pm

      Harriet, I’ve never tried collecting seed from Bluebird. It didn’t do well for me until I moved it to the protected spot between the foundation and the front door, where it has proved to be an over-achiever. I was amazed to find it still blooming this morning, even after temperatures down to 10F Saturday morning that even finished off the flowers of Vernonia ‘Iron Butterfly.’

  3. Pat Leuchtman permalink
    October 19, 2020 12:52 pm

    We share several plants – a Bluebird-ish aster and the brilliant Alma Potchke. Gardens can be lovely even this late.

    • November 1, 2020 7:56 pm

      Pat, I so agree. Those late flowers are all the more precious when the high summer blooms are long gone.

  4. October 19, 2020 5:21 pm

    You’ve got a lovely collection of asters, Jeans. I admire the fall color of the Amsonia and even tried growing it here at one time. My Sunset Western Garden Book claimed it could handle my climate but the speed at which it died suggested otherwise.

    • November 1, 2020 8:02 pm

      Kris, I’ve had many of those disconnects between what the book said and how the plants behaved. As one of my blogging friends once told me, “The plants don’t read garden books.” 😉

  5. October 20, 2020 11:02 am

    I remember how sad I used to feel when autumn did its magic — but then I’d stop and notice the beauty of those changes, how some plants aged gracefully while others preferred to take a backseat and let others have the spotlight… As always… stunning.

    • November 1, 2020 8:03 pm

      Kevin, The temperature went down to 10F here yesterday morning, but when it warmed up today, I still found a few plants blooming — asters, rudbeckia, and lavender.

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