One final autumn hurrah of color

Published 10:00 am Sunday, November 1, 2015

The tiger eye sumac displays gorgeous autumn colors. - Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

The tiger eye sumac displays gorgeous autumn colors. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

Autumn’s final hurrah on the landscape in my gardens has been full of brilliant colors and textures. Soon all of this will disappear and instead we will have bare gardens and gray skies as we usher in November. This past week my husband and I have been replacing many of the boards in our privacy fence so I have been up close and personal with anything growing along the borders of the fences. As we worked in the area of the tiger eye sumac, I remarked to my husband more than once that I wished I could find another spot to add another of this colorful and sculptural small ornamental tree.

It seems like all of the colors in the gardens were more intense this fall with the sumac really taking center stage. In the past I have regaled the many benefits of this small tree with the lime green foliage in spring and summer, but just wait until you see the range of colors it produces for fall with lime green, brilliant yellow and hot orange and reddish hues. This tree loses all of its foliage for the winter months, and what is left is something you have to see to enjoy as the branches resemble antlers complete with a fuzzy coating on them. If you have room in your gardens for this small ornamental I highly recommend it.

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My view from the Victorian reading room, aka second bedroom, has me captivated as I glance at the burgundy colors of the pagoda dogwood that sprawls over the east end of the oval garden. This is a lovely small ornamental that has white spring blooms followed by deep purple berries. In autumn the leaves change to many shades of burgundy. Still blooming in front of this tree are the alyssum in three shades of purple. Orange pumpkins and a gazing ball in teal and a sparkly mauve color add lovely contrast to the tree.

Looking through the oval garden, my eye is drawn towards the fence where clethra in shades of golden yellow is holding its own against the gray fence. This lovely shrub is on the smaller side with very pretty green leaves all summer. Then in late summer it is filled with pink flowers that attract the hummers and bees, but when autumn arrives it really comes into its own. It is another shrub I would highly recommend for three season interest.

As my eye travels through the oval garden way to the very back I am so excited to see my oakleaf hydrangea bursting with burgundy leaves. The leaves are quite large and shaped like oak leaves, thus the name, oakleaf hydrangea. This beauty is zone 5 and requires winter protection and has never bloomed for me. I don’t care as it is one of my very favorite hydrangeas.  Speaking of hydrangeas, they sure are lovely as I see all the different textures and shapes of the blooms that have now turned many shades of tawny brown on all the different varieties that I have and will hold their flower heads through the winter months. I usually trim them off in early March.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Japanese maple that has finally turned blood red and takes center stage in the back yard during the fall. This gem has been in my gardens for more than 25 years as when I planted it the tiny sapling was about the thickness of a pencil and maybe 12 inches tall. Yes, I have babied it over the years, and when the heavy May snow bent the branches to the ground I shed many tears as I glanced out the window and the pathetic looking tree appeared doomed to my eyes. Many a prayer was uttered for it to bounce back, and it has rallied but is definitely in decline.

The roses are still showing a few lovely blooms on them, and there are bright orange rose hips that I will collect for tea one of these days. My amber flower carpet roses have been lovely and hopefully with winter protection will survive our harsh winter. The ground is becoming littered with fallen leaves that we will mulch up with the mower, and then I will spread them on the gardens and we will be officially ready for winter. Lots of birds at the feeders bring added color and attraction.

“There is no light in earth or heaven, but the cold light of stars; and the first watch of the night is given to the red planet Mars.” — Longfellow


Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at