Perhaps you’re already aware of the gardener’s favorite seasonal adage: fall is for planting.
But thanks to the four-season benefits of the gardens along the Low Line, fall is also for strolling, lunching, and enjoying the cooler temperatures and the colorful foliage that signify autumn.
Some of summer’s well known flowering perennials are a thing of the past, but you can still feast your eyes on the gorgeous blue blooms of October Skies Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’) and the taller, more purplish New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-anglia), also known as the Michaelmas Daisy. Additionally, Narrow Leaf Bluester (Amsonia hubrichtii), boasts a yellow thread-like foliage beloved by butterflies. And who can forget the rusty red, almost sedum-like blooms of Dwarf Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’), planted in the rain garden and along the Low Line?
At the peak of summer, the Low Line’s native trees can take a backseat to the season’s bright foliage and showy blooms. But this time of year is the perfect opportunity to appreciate our native trees. The Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance’) is well named for its lovely, reddish fall leaves. Also our native Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) steals the show, sporting uniquely shaped green cones bursting with red berries.
The Low Line is multi-dimensional and is also packed with low lying shrubs. Near the rain garden, in Great Shiplock Park, you don’t want to miss the glorious purple berries of the Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), or its neighboring Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Henry’s Garnet’) with its vibrant red fall foliage. Not far off, you’ll see Wayfarer Viburnum (Viburnum lantana ‘Mohican’), with luscious, purply-red berries nestled amongst its pleasingly ruffled leaves.
And don’t forget perhaps the most picturesque autumnal shrub of them all: Winterberry (Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’), whose bright red fruit is newly visible while still nestled amongst her lovely green leaves. Its leaves will be leaving soon, making way for winter’s iconic ilex show of bare branches and berries, so often captured in snowy photographs of winter.
Finally the Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Fire’, and Panicum ‘Cape Breeze’; are two varieties of red Switchgrasses. The iridescent flower panicles are favored by nesting grassland birds as a happy nesting spot. In fact, all of the plants along the Low Line were incorporated in part because they serve as good winter homes for birds and insects as the seasons change.
In case you’ve been thinking you’ll have to wait until spring to visit the Low Line gardens again, we hope this serves as a reminder that the space isn’t reserved just for spring and summer.
Do yourself a favor, and take in the autumnal show. Yes, fall is for planting, but it’s also for admiring mature plants and reveling in the rhythm of the changing seasons. As the days get shorter, the Low Line gardens shine in a different, though no less enchanting way.