October Potpourri

Even though it was somewhat cloudy this morning, I was drawn outside by the kaleidoscope of colors I saw through the windows.  The most colorful of all was the American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)group Hazelnut

Its leaves have turned to vermillion, cranberry, apricot, and topaz that mix in with lingering chartreuse, while pendulous catkins form along the gray branches.

leaves hazelnut

An upright, multi-stemmed shrub with a rounded top, it grows 8’-10‘ tall. It forms colonies by means of root sprouts, although it has never done so in my garden  Before European settlement it was the most prominent shrub in the Chicago region.  But the suppression of fire and the overgrowth of exotic honeysuckle and buckthorn has altered the composition of open savannas to the extent that American Hazelnut is rarely found in the wild any more.  I’ve searched in vain in the Forest Preserves of northern Kane County where I live to see it in its native habitat. Fortunately, Hazelnut is readily available from nurseries and it makes a splendid shrub for home grounds.  Group it in partial to full sun in a shrubbery border or plant it on the east or west corners of a house.  Or grow it in a naturalized situation within an oak savanna, or along a woodland edge or a fence line.  It produces downy clusters of edible nuts in September and October, similar, or some say superior, to the commercial variety.   It is, however, difficult to harvest them before the critters do.   Hazelnut can withstand fire, regenerating after the top has burned to the ground.  It was a favorite of Jens Jensen— he frequently planted it in colonies within a shrubbery border along property edges.

black haw and trellis oct

The vibrant crimson leaves of the Black Haw (Viburnum prunefolium), situated on the other side of the savanna garden next to the sidewalk, is equally eye-catching.  Growing 12-15’ tall and 8-12’ wide, the horizontal branching pattern of the tree is reminiscent of hawthorn trees:hence the name.  Jens Jensen, for that reason, favored Black Haw, as well.

trellis and birdbath

A tangle of colors, textures, and shapes creates a fascinating picture.

tall coreopsis 2

Aptly named, the golden-rayed, brown-centered daisies of Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris) grow in branched clusters at the top of 6’-to-7’ tall, smooth, wand-like stems.  Its 3-part leaves have turned to a magnificent  wine color.   At my house, it has never flowered beyond mid-September.

In nature it is found in  prairies and thin sandy woods.

prairie baby's breath oct

This is, by far, the latest that Prairie Baby’s Breath (Euphorbia corollata) has flowered, as well

prairie baby's breth golden foliage

The fall foliage of Prairie Baby’s Breath turns to gold; in a dry year it becomes scarlet.

prairie dropseed sw corner

One can never have too many Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis). The whorled, arching mound, 1’ to 2’ tall and up to 3‘ around turns a brassy gold at first, then becomes a coppery bronze.  Delicate airy panicles of aromatic flowers begin to emerge in August on stiff stems 2-3’ above the foliage; the ripe seed drops by the end of September

smooth blue aster red leaves

The foliage of Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis)–oops! (Symphyotrichum leave)  has turned to crimson.

wild geranium oct red leaves

Surprisingly, the leaves of the woodland, May-blooming Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) turn to scarlet in the fall.  It’s surprising because, offhand, I can’t think of any other spring woodland wildflower that turns red in the fall..

prairie dropseed and lantern

Did I say one can never have too many Prairie Dropseed?.

patio w: leaves

The leaves of the Redbud trees (Cercis canadensis) create a ceiling and a   sea of gold above and on my patio in October.

prairie dropseed driveway corner

Did I mention one can never have too many Prairie Dropseed?




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3 Responses to October Potpourri

  1. Peggy Timmerman October 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    We have wild American hazelnut growing in oak savanna and goat prairie areas in Richland County, WI. It does indeed survive being burned!

  2. Meredith Schroeer October 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    All so lovely! You are quite a bit ahead of us here in Normal, Illinois. I must have another look at my wild geranium. Had never noticed them turning red here.

    Thanks so much!

    Meredith Schroeer

  3. Suzanne Massion October 19, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    I’m so thankful we had Tom VanderPoel plant some American Hazelnut shrubs 15-20 years ago around the house and in several open areas on the property. This fall,as you noted, Pat, they are glorious. I’ve found some throughout the savanna that we didn’t plant, so credit, I think, goes to squirrels and birds. I also love the red leaves of wild geranium in the fall.

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