Autumn Visions in the Garden

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Autumn Visions in the Garden

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Mid Autumn is already here and the weather has been simply spectacular. The colors of the season are starting to charm the visitor and speak to the spirit of this Midwestern Garden.

A Cherokee Sunset Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) shade a patch of vibrant impatiens for some striking color combinations. Look for this composition near the Hummingbird Garden outside the Visitor Center.

Purple Dahlia Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) continues to thrive and bloom in the Hummingbird Garden even though our hummingbirds have all migrated southward. This is one of two seed strain Zinnias we love for nectaring butterflies and hummingbirds as well as for disease resistant foliage. Most zinnias would be rubble mired in mildew after this past wet season.

Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) continue to sport their velvety orange blossoms so apropos for the season. I like the background of burgundy Flowering Dogwood fall foliage in this shot from the Hummingbird Garden.
As long as Jack Frost stays away, our overhead arbor of Purple Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos lablab) in flower and fruit will greet visitors on their way from the Visitor Center to the Dogwood Walk.

A walk down the Dogwood Walk to the Island Garden is well worth the exercise! The views from the Island Garden to the chapel are stunning when framed by Maximillian’s Sunflower and prairie grasses at the peak of their fall colors.

The Aromatic Asters (Aster oblongifolius) in the Island Garden’s living wall’s eastern end are awash in bloom. Make sure to look at all the butterflies and beneficial insects visiting the flowers as you walk past.

The meadow is in full autumn attire with blooming asters (New England Aster Aster novae-angliae depicted) with various seedheads (Illinois Bundle Flower Desmodium illinoiense) and grass seed heads (Giant Foxtail Setaria italica) set off by billowing masses of local prairie grasses.

Many of our oak trees are just starting to turn colors like this stalwart Post Oak (Quercus stellata) growing on the edge of the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This is one of our toughest native trees and should be planted more often but doesn’t conform to nursery production. It is a tree that withstands everything that Mother Nature can throw at it from heavy ice load to extreme heat and drought.

Shagbark Hickories (Carya ovata) are also turning shades of yellow and are another tried and true native tree here. They also don’t conform to nursery production so are never available for homeowners to plant. Look for many of these trees with classic shaggy bark in the Rock and Waterfall Garden.

The Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are also turning their characteristic shades of pale yellow in the understory of the Rock & Waterfall Garden. This tree is becoming more popular in gardens as edible landscaping themes gain mainstream acceptance. If you’ve never eaten a pawpaw fruit before, be sure and visit Powell Gardens next early to mid-September next year to sample a pawpaw at the tasting stations in the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Grasses are a mainstay of local autumn gardens and here huge ‘Guilded Tower’ Giant Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) stands left of lovely ‘Autumn Red’ Miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis) near the Perennial Garden trolley stop. Note the heavily fruited ‘Centurion’ Crabapple in the background which adds to the autumn colors of this composition.

Tall Tails Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale) always is a fun blast of seedheads in this season. Look for this mass with complimentary crabapple and chrysanthemums also near the Perennial Garden trolley stop.

‘Hameln’ Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) also acquires some nice fall hues and looks great with various chrysanthemums in the Perennial Garden.

Many shrubs throughout the gardens are studded in autumn fruit. This is a rare cultivar of Missouri native Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) called ‘Firework’ because the stems of the blue berries are bright red.

Another Viburnum with striking fruit now is the Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum): this is the heavy fruiting cultivar ‘Asian Beauty.’



The weekend is supposed to continue our spectacular streak of gorgeous fall weather so be sure and consider a visit to Powell Gardens and experience its gorgeous autumn visions.