The Big Chill and Autumn Color’s Last Stand

Every year there is a sort of tipping point reached some time in November that signals the coming end of fall and beginning of winter. Yesterday seems to have been one of those days. Following a week of very mild weather, almost shirtsleeve weather, a biting cold arrived riding in on strong winds. Suddenly the night was cold enough to make an icy cap on the water in the bird baths.

The cold shriveled my last blooming annual, Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’, which had kept blooming gamely even as the calendar wore on. Nevertheless, the last of the fall colors strive to hang on, unwilling to go softly into that good night. Judy and I both took some of these pictures (mine are the fuzzy ones). Unfortunately, her good camera, a Nikon, isn’t working right now.

Incredibly, there are still a few flowers blooming. The trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is having a last flush of flowers.

Trumpet honeysuckle

And my white roses, ‘Darlow’s Enigma’, ‘Cassie’, even ‘Sallie Holmes’, continue to have a few flowers.

Rosa ‘Darlow’s Enigma’

There are also rose hips, though these are quickly eaten by the birds once ripe.

Rosa ‘Westerland’
Rosa ‘Darlow’s Enigma’

The above-mentioned roses still have green foliage, but I was pleased to see that the wild pink rose Rosa setigera has lovely fall color. I’m growing R. setigera, also called prairie rose or Illinois rose, against a south-facing white brick wall, where it is gradually entangling itself with the trumpet flower. This is its second year.

Rosa setigera autumn foliage Illinois Rose
Rosa setigera autumn foliage

Most of the leaves have fallen, but there are a few that still stubbornly refuse to drop. The Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet) still has many of its golden yellow leaves.

Summersweet autumn foliage

My native Viburnums are just now beginning to concede that the seasons are changing. V. prunifolium, blackhaw Viburnum, is turning a deep red. V. trilobum (cranberrybush Viburnum) is turning a multitude of colors, from burgundy to bright yellow.

Cranberrybush Viburnum

And my young Cornus florida (flowering dogwood), planted just this spring, is the last of my dogwoods to keep its foliage.

Cornus florida fall foliage
Flowering Dogwood

Carry on as long as you can, you last few holdouts of autumn. As white and brown gradually covers the land, I will think of you.

36 Comments on “The Big Chill and Autumn Color’s Last Stand”

  1. Flowers at this time of year are doubly precious, we have to make the most of them. Autumn colours make up for the lack of flowers, so your garden is very colourful still, but for how much longer though, will you be covered in snow all winter?

  2. So many lovely examples of fall color in your garden, Jason. My clethra has not been happy in my garden at all; now I know what gorgeous fall foliage it should have. Nice to see your roses blooming as well.

    The weather has changed here, too; I haven’t been out to check this morning, but I would be surprised to see anything blooming at all on this frosty morning.

  3. I love rose hips, but you’re so right–they disappear quickly, with the birds enjoying them before I can steal a few for rose hip tea. Your garden is lovely, rich with colors and textures. Normally, I curse our overly shady garden, but in autumn our forest turns into a showcase, and I remember to be grateful for all of the lovely trees. Happy GBBD to you!

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