Continuity meets transition

As the rains finally return to Rhode Island, and the sweatshirts and jeans are pulled from the back of the closet, I can’t help but get excited. Change is inevitable when gardening in New England, and taking on new challenges is one of the things I love most about my job. Now’s the time to reflect, prepare, and enjoy as we step into the next seasonal transition.

The Franklin tree flower atop darkening leaves.

Many plants continue to bloom as October rages on, helping one reflect on the growing season winding down. The Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) has nearly exhausted its buds, but several still remain, scattered throughout the elegant structure of this magnificent specimen. Not far away, overlooking the North Garden, two panicle hydrangeas (Hyrdrangea paniculata ‘Little Lamb’) continue to catch my eye every time I pass by. The plants have held their flowers since the end of July, blooming a creamy white and slowly fading to what is now a dark sherbet pink.

Panicle hydrangea ‘Little Lamb’ in a container in the North Garden. I’ll let the reader interpret the color.

Fall color is one of nature’s most bittersweet events. While its symbolizes the end of many good things, this spectacle is something everyone is captivated by and looks forward to. The early standouts here at Blithewold include the red maples (Acer rubrum), sourwood (Oxydendron arboreum), and Chinese toon (Toona sinensis), with their scarlet reds, rusty oranges, and yellows.

Red maple starting to brighten
Toon tree in a couple different phases of color.

October is the time when many trees and shrubs produce showy fruits. Linden leaf viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum) is known for its heavy fruit set, small red berries in dense clusters that can be seen from afar. The red is very similar to that produced by the decaying leaves of the red maple. The fruits of the white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) caught me by surprise down in the Water Garden. They’re unique in size, shape, and color: a 1/2 inch in length, ovoid, and blackish blue . I encountered the fruit recently on a garden tour and admittedly didn’t know what I was looking at. Luckily, the owner of the property was there to fill me in.

The berries of linden leaf viburnum.
The egg-shaped fruit of the white fringe tree.

The color of fall is just starting to appear at Blithewold. Be sure to stop by, take a stroll, and soak in all the beauty!