October in the Gardens

As I look around the Gardens in mid-October I appreciate the light and shadows of autumn and the reflections in the various ponds. I also note how the views change with the season as deciduous trees drop their leaves and evergreens seem to step forward. The burning bush, Euonymus alatus, offers some of the earliest color with its intense red leaves, both on the bush and on the ground where they create a carpet of color.

Euonymus alatus in October
Euonymus alatus in October

Shrubs of note include Viburnum dilatatum, called the Linden viburnum because the leaves resemble the leaves of Linden trees, with striking red fruits in autumn that light up the landscape. Mature plants can reach 10’ or taller.

Viburnum dilatatum
Viburnum dilatatum

Other fall highlights include roses and perennials like Japanese anemone, Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert,’ with stunning white flowers.

Anemone x japonica ‘Alba’

Later in the month and into November Japanese maples put on a show with colors in shades of red, orange and yellow. One variety with a strictly weeping habit is ‘Ryusen.’ This cultivar waits until November before its leaves turn brilliant orange, a standout in the landscape. At Gibbs Gardens there are 1,000’s of Japanese maples. When you grow them in your own garden here are some things to consider.

Acer palmatum
Acer palmatum ‘Ryusen’

Combine Japanese maples with other plants

In the landscape Japanese maples provide four seasons or beauty. They look especially good when they are combined with other plants including perennials, shrubs and even bulbs.

At Gibbs many of the Japanese maples are skillfully combined with both evergreen and deciduous plants. Plant them as specimens against a backdrop of evergreens like Florida leucothoe, Agarista populifolia or native hemlocks and rhododendrons.   Camellias and conifers also make good mates or background plants. Our grand native baldcypress, Taxodium distichum, makes a great partner with its russet fall foliage, a perfect contrast for the red and orange leaves of many of the Japanese maples.

Perennials such as Rohdea japonica, Nippon lily, and Acorus ‘Ogon’ are perfect evergreen groundcovers for shade that also provide texture year around. Another favorite of mine is Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides. A tough evergreen native, it tolerates dry shade and also makes a lovely carpet under Japanese maples.     For sunny areas Arkansas bluestar, Amsonia hubrichtii, is a winner for its foliage in spring, summer and fall.   Shrubs like the plum yew, Cephalotaxus harringtoni , and Fatsia japonica with its large evergreen leaves and curious seedheads in late fall are other companions to consider.


Plant Japanese maples near water

The reflections of the leaves during fall when they turn brilliant colors and in the spring when they first appear, makes for a dynamic ever changing scene.

Japanese Garden Fall Foliage

Fall is a great time to reflect on life in the garden, its successes and failures, and to plan and plant for next year.