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Friday, October 21, 2011

The Tipping Point...

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It happened...the Tipping Point. Of course, there are many such points during the year in a garden. There is the first sign of new growth at the end of winter, ushering in spring. There is the first Daisy, announcing summer. Then, there is that moment when late summer trips into Autumn. Some years, I admit, I'm so busy and preoccupied with other things that I won't realize it's happened until I'm faced with a mountain of leaves from our neighbors oak trees. This year I spotted it...that one moment where there is an ever-so-slightly perceptible shift in mood in the garden. Last month, while taking pics for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I noticed that the Rudbeckia flowers (which always seem to last forever) had started to fade...only a few at first...then more and more...a sure sign that summer was on its way out. I know many gardeners hate to see summer end, but I love autumn, and all the changes it brings with it...even if winter is just around the corner. Of course, it helps that here in the PNW, our winters are pretty mild..absent are the shoveling of snow and the frozen fingers and toes that go with it!

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September 15, 2011October 15, 2011
As they age, the flowers go from being held stiffly horizontal to drooping a bit like an octopus on a stick. A month later, the dark black seed heads are all that remain. I love this time in the garden, when summer-bloomers start to fade away, putting their energy into interesting seed heads. I was particularly pleased with how the Miscanthus purpurascens behind the Rudbeckia created a warm background for the Rudbeckia., reminiscent of their summer show.

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There is something wonderfully graphic about seed heads that I just can't quite put my finger on...how they create a field of tiny dark focal points against different colored backgrounds. Of course, this all relates to one of my favorite aspects of gardening...the constant (and sometimes unpredictable) changes that occur all year long. A garden is never static, but always growing, thriving, declining, going dormant. It's this ongoing evolution that makes me excited every morning to see what has changed. Even if I am only away for a short time, I am always amazed at just how much can change during just those few days!

Panicum Shendoah wider
Of course, with the advent of fall and the fading of many perennials, the ornamental grasses really step into the spotlight, like this Panicum 'Shenandoah'. Granted, this 'Shenandoah' isn't quite as vibrantly colored in my garden as it would be in a garden with more sun...but I'll take what I can get! Take a moment in your garden and appreciate all the changes that are happening now...faster and faster as we head into the next season.

38 comments:

  1. Hi Scott,

    Lovely photos; it's so sad to see your Rudbekia have gone but I do have to agree that there's something special about seedheads, they're so architectural and interesting.

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  2. Great pictures, and I love the message in your post. But, no matter how hard I try, I just can't see the beauty in seedheads. I wish I could, because I love to gather and grow from my own seeds, and that means leaving them on for a good long time to ripen.

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  3. i love how the dying rudbeckia look in the second pic.. very cool.

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  4. I think everyone must know by now how I feel about seed heads. "There's gold in them there seed heads!"

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  5. Hi Scott, I always come here for the inspiringly beautiful photos. Those seedheads even seemingly dead is really full of life, both in photo and in reality. As for the tipping moment between seasons, we don't have that because we only have the dry and wet seasons. Do you think it's weird? But that is reality too, at least for us. So the most obvious for us is green and brown environment.

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  6. I think my susans left early this year. I suppose I should date the decline with photos. This evening was so pleasant I actually sat down and enjoyed the garden. ha.

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  7. I was just talking with a zone 5 gardener who was becoming visibly annoyed with my complaining about our winter....okay! You, and she, are right, we've got it pretty easy here. Still, it goes on too long!

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  8. I love seed heads and seed pods. I think there is a sculptural quality about them that I find aesthetically pleasing.

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  9. It's the fact what I see as dying, the birds see as food.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  10. Very well put! There is beauty in the garden with every season change if you choose to see it.

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  11. I agree- I like to watch the plants fade in and out- as soon as the one you love to watch starts to fade out you see another one beginning to show off. The Panicum is beautiful. I have not seen that one. I like the little sprays of it. It always amazes me the changes in plants in just a few days- especially with cooler nights and or rain.

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  12. Although I happen to hate Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' (that egg yolk yellow!), I absolutely love the seedheads. I think there's one that has no petals. Maybe I should try that one. There is something magical in the way those dark, almost black, dots work against the gauziness and unpredictable angles of grasses. Glad you didn't miss the tipping point this year.

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  13. Wonderful images, I have a few in my garden and let them dry all winter I like her even killed extructura
    a greeting

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  14. I would like fall a lot more if it didn't rain so much. Don't get me wrong -- I actually like rain. It's when it doesn't stop from mid-October to mid-May, though, that it gets on my nerves. Raymond is only a bit NW from you, on the Washington coast, but we get a lot more rain.

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  15. Hi Scott
    I read your comments on how to hold up some grasses that lack a backbone by corseting .. I actually do the same type of thing with a large stake or an obelisk trained in the middle (Karly Rose Grass especially) .. I am a grass fan and have many different types .. I could imagine a garden without grasses ..
    Wonderful pictures on the tipping point !
    Joy : )

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  16. PS .. that was "could NOT imagine a garden without grasses" .. time for bed ? LOL
    Joy

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  17. Hi Scott,

    I hope you're having an awesome week! I thought you might like this infographic I helped build about the health, mental, and financial benefits of gardening (http://blog.lochnesswatergardens.com/how-gardening-benefit/).

    If you think your readers would like it too, please feel free to use it on the Rhone Street Gardens blog. There's code at the bottom of our post that makes it super easy to post on your blog. It's all free (of course). If you have any questions about posting it, let me know and I'll try to help.

    I don't know where else to contact you so I just posted a comment here. :)

    Thanks!

    ~ Janey
    janealvarado83@gmail.com

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  18. Yes, I'm extremely jealous of folks who don't have to fight the snow and ice. Autumn is beautiful in so many locations, though! So many photo ops these days! Your images are incredible as always!

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  19. Scott,
    Another wonderful post! I love how your beautiful photos, and they way you have woven your thoughts together.

    I have been thinking lately that the very characteristic of gardens that makes them not fit easily into the definition of "fine art", that is their transience, is what makes them most engaging and exciting as an artist to create.

    Happy autumn!,
    Julie

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  20. Here Rudbeckia had its last hoorah in September and have long resembled your graphic seed heads. It was not the impending change that did this, but just sheer exhaustion from the summer. We are still weeks away from a frost or freeze. I like how annuals continue to bloom, blind to what will do them in, but the more permanent residents of the garden know and are preparing.

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  21. Beautiful photos especially with the miscanthus giving all of that backlighting. I'm all prepared for the shovelling of snow and we can see it on the far mountains here already. I quite enjoy using winter as an excuse to take a break from the garden.

    My Rudbeckia is still in flower here but you've given me the inspiration to photograph it once it goes to seed heads.

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  22. Interesting how a big planting of one type of plant can almost behave like a calendar for the year. A few drying seedheads on a single plant I might miss, but a big cluster of them together is hard to ignore. Summer's over, alright...

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  23. Very nice pics Scott! You caught the very moment! My Rudbekias have finished long time ago, last summer has been very drought, I guess it's my fault but I didn't feel like watering them. I now have hundreds of black dots waving trough the grasses. I love the contrast they make, as you said.
    Is this your first year with Shenandoah? Don't feed it nor water it you'll see some colours then!

    Alberto

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  24. Beautiful photos. My eyes are always looking for the tipping point. I always look skyward, to the top of the maple tree, to see the first tint of color on the leaves. Now, I'm looking forward to the spring awakening. Nothing like having a long wait.

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  25. Lovely photos. For me the transition to fall is an almost imperceptible shift in light, which I sometimes see in August but this year saw in September. My 'Goldsturm' usually stop blooming in August - interesting how different it can be depending where you are.

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  26. You've described the joy of gardening perfectly...it's magical the way so much can happen in a few days time and how equally beautiful each life stage of a plant can be.

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  27. That's quite a nice photo of the seedheads. the yellowing of the foliage is setting them off even better than the green would. Really nice.

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  28. Your pics are really very good... and the way you do your blog... very nice indeed...

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  29. Those Rubeckia are beautiful even in their spent state. Great images!

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  30. I love seeing the seedheads peeking out of the first drifts of fresh snow. Adds nice interest to that 6 month blanket of white (that grows old really fast!)

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  31. Once again, Scott, your photos are outstanding. I love how they depict the evolution of the seasons. I think I've finally conceded to the change. It's easy when it's sunny out, like it's been the last few days. Chilly but sunny.

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  32. Yep the summer perennials are fading off into the sunset for another season. I love autumn too, it brings cooler temps and the plants that stand out are more noticable without the chaos of summer. :)

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  33. You have a better attitude toward the changes of the seasons than I do. Maybe it is because our winter is the cold, and sometimes snowy kind.

    I love your photos, as always. I have been having problems getting my grasses to show up in photos. In my foliage post you mentioned how large your persecaria polymorpha has gotten. Glenda, from Gardening in the Ozarks told me I may have to move things when mine gets full grown. It didn't bloom this year. I hope it does next year.

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  34. Your lovely photos make me feel a little sheepish for wanting to be such a neatnik (it's not that I often GET to deadheading quickly, but I always WANT to clean them up.) But leaving flowerheads on can be both beautiful (in a spectral sort of way) and beneficial to birds and insects that eat the seeds from them. A retraining of my natural inclination is definitely in order. At least the grasses are easier for me to take as they age!

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  35. Love your vivid photos! We've had a couple of hard frosts here and things are definitely tipping toward winter, with bare tree branches and melted-looking perennials.

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  36. Yes, I've noticed the changes too. Things have definitely changed. We've really had a beautiful fall this year so I can't complain. As usual your pictures are amazing!

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  37. Fantastic post - and I love the title! So true, and you captured the flowers at the very exact moment they began their long winter's nap. Love it!!!

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