A Few Fall Favorites for Foliage and Fruit

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Italian arum, Arum italicum, goes dormant during the summer and comes up again in September so it is pristine in the fall and through the winter.  All photos were taken at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens this week.

“A Few Fall Favorites for Foliage and Fruit” was inspired by an article in a gardening magazine talking about dressing up your fall garden with mums because everything else is finished and the garden is looking tired.  Reading this sent me rushing for my camera and out the door to prove them wrong (I have a similar response to shade gardening articles that start: “Now you can’t have color in the shade, but….”).  In fact, my indignation has inspired a three-part post, the other two will cover flowers and hostas that look good in fall.  And none of the plants I am highlighting are relying on fall leaf color yet.  So here is some of what is fresh and beautiful in my shady gardens right now:

‘Brigadoon’ St. John’s Wort, Hypericum calycinum ‘Brigadoon’, has gorgeous gold foliage all season.  With the onset of cold weather, it will take on peachy hues.

‘Caramel’ coral bells, Heuchera villosa ‘Caramel’, displays its lovely colors 365 days a year.  The native Heuchera villosa cultivars, including ‘Caramel’, ‘Citronelle’, ‘Bronze Wave’, and ‘Frosted Violet’, are the best coral bells for our area and remain colorful through winter.

‘Aureola’ Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, really comes into its own in the fall when its cascading yellow-variegated foliage shines in full shade.

The foliage palette for shade has been enlarged by the recent introduction of foamy bells, x Heucherella, which is a cross between native foamflower, Tiarella, and native coral bells, Heuchera.  This is ‘Solar Power’.

One of the many things I like about hybrid hellebores, Helleborus x hybridus, is that their evergreen leaves stay pristine through whatever summer throws at them.

The evergreen leaves of Christmas rose hellebore, Helleborus niger, are also lovely in the fall.

The leaves of ‘Black Scallop’ ajuga, A. reptans ‘Black Scallop, become darker and darker as fall progresses, ending up a deep mahogany.

‘Diana Clare’ lungwort, Pulmonaria ‘Diana Clare’, is another plant that can take whatever nature dishes out—it shines in full shade.

Unlike deciduous ferns that hit the decks in September, evergreen ferns are just getting going, here tassel fern, Polystichum polyblepharum.  To read my article on evergreen ferns for shade, click here.

The foliage of ‘Wolf Eyes’ kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’, is beautiful all season, but I especially appreciate it in the fall when other leaves are tattered.

‘Red Sprite’ winterberry holly, Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, is my favorite of all the native winterberry cultivars because it has a compact habit and produces copious amounts of very large berries.  For more information on this great shrub, click here.

Our native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is in full fruit right now.

The striking bright purple berries of ‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’, march evenly down the stems of its beautifully cascading branches.  For more information and a close up photo, click here.

I grow my tea viburnums, Viburnum setigerum, in the shade of massive 150-year-old London plane trees, but it doesn’t stop them from producing their spectacular bunches of shiny red fruit.

The foliage and berries highlighted above, along with many I did not include, make my fall gardens a showplace for my customers and a relaxing retreat for me.  They do not require any dressing up for fall because they are already fully clothed.


Stay tuned for Part 2, A Few Fall Favorites for Flowers, and Part 3, Hostas for Fall.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.), just click here.

Nursery Happenings: Orders for woody shade plants will be accepted until  midnight on Wednesday, October 5.  Click here for the catalogue.  Our final fall open house sale will be on Saturday, October 8, from 10 am to 2 pm, and Sunday, October 9, from 1 to 3 pm.  Remember you can make an appointment to shop 24/7 by sending me an email at carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  The nursery closes for the year on October 16.

56 Responses to “A Few Fall Favorites for Foliage and Fruit”

  1. Brill post! Lots of food for thought there. Have never seen that golden leaved Hypericum, it’s lovely. Maybe we don’t have it over here.

  2. Great post of information as always. My visits through your blog takes me there in minutes. Thanks for you efforts and passion.

  3. I am with you…I could just picture you running with your camera….plant some mums–really? Is that all they can come up with…I have many of the same plants around my garden right now except the St. John’s Wort which I keep saying I must plant. I will be adding it to the next plant I must buy list…great post…can’t wait for the other 2…

    • Donna, Glad you enjoyed the post. The point is not that my garden is so great :-), but that any garden can look fresh in the fall if you have plants that perform (or continue to perform) then. Although the tendency is to shop in the spring and choose plants that are in bloom then, I try to encourage my customers to look at the whole year as the gardening season and plan to have interesting plants 365 days a year. Carolyn

  4. Simply stunning-all of them. The viburnum is especially splendid with all those red berries.

    • Tina, I have to say that this fall is the best year ever for the berries on my tea viburnum. It must have liked it when we got 30″ of rain in August and September–our average annual rainfall is 41″ inches and we already have 52″ year-to-date. I guess the berries are the silver lining. Carolyn

  5. Many fine choices. I love Coral bells, but they are not very happy in many parts of our area. My garden is one of those spots and I have never really understood what is the reason for it. My Viburnum has been picked clean by the birds already. I did not beat them out there to photograph the berries. I hope to get fields of them at the farm, but the birds probably got them too. My post for Word for Wednesday is up today, stop in for a few of my design jobs. I saw you popped in for the Month in Tens.

    • Donna, Not all coral bells are created equal. Many of the new cultivars use species from the Pacific Northwest as parents for the crosses, and the resulting plants just can’t survive here even though they look good in the pots at the nursery. I will have to keep track of when the birds eat the tea viburnum berries. Carolyn

  6. Carolyn I have learned that you are at your best when challenged — excellent response here! I love shade plants so much — I would choose more shade beds over more sun any time. I guess that’s why I have planted so many trees over the years.

  7. Very inspiring, Carolyn and some things for me to think about for next autumn, although I’ll have to pass on the Arums – beautiful, but a real weed here.

  8. They are beautiful Carolyn, however i love most the design of that Italian arum, does it grow only in temperate climes? I thought since it is an arum it will grow also in the tropics, or probably acclimatize well.

  9. So lovely to see someone extolling the virtues of shade, we also have so much of it here. Very impressed with your Viburnum stigerum – that must keep the birds happy!

  10. Too often folks use the “Plug ‘n’ Play” method of gardening. Mums- or ornamental cabbages-for example.
    Not too different from the seasonal yard decorations that are changed as frequently as the sheets.
    This week I am seeing mail boxes and hedges covered with spiderwebbing, and it won’t be long before that is replaced with inflatable pumpkins (real ones being too heavy, and hard to dispose of after the holiday (they don’t cook, either!)
    Carolyn, you are a constant inspiration for those of us looking for something “different!

    • Day, I remember when ornamental cabbages first hit the market. I thought they were very interesting and probably bought some. Now they are so overused that they aren’t ornamental anymore. I never thought about the seasonal decorations in the same way. Nothing beats a pile of interesting gourds and some real pumpkins for fall though. Carolyn

  11. I love seeing all of the colorful berries in your garden. The Wolf Eyes Dogwood is another beautiful foliage shrub. I adore Diana Clare. Thank you for introducing me to the Whirlwind double white anemone. I looked it up and it is a beautiful one. I have it on the list. LOL!

    • Lona, ‘Diana Clare’ is one of the best pulmonaria in my garden for fall display. The excessive heat and drought and then excessive rain that we have experienced this summer have not bothered it. You will love ‘Whirlwind’–it’s habit is statuesque (sometimes I put a peony hoop around it). Carolyn

  12. Cynthia Kardon Says:

    Carolyn: beautiful photos. We have some yellowish leaved hosta from you that are just glowing. At night they still stand out and are like a beacon of light in the yard. They look amazing right now. Thanks

  13. nwphillygardner Says:

    Yes, your photos are indeed a reminder that we haven’t come to the end quite yet. In my own garden there are also some very showy Tricyrtis, begonia grandis, and the amazingly floriferous Tinantia pringleii blooming up a storm in the shade. There’s also a sudden growth spurt of stoloniferous Carex morrowi that looks robust. And I’ve just begun to see the first blooms of a new late-blooming perennial for shade that I found, called Rabdosa longituba. It’s supposedly grows to 4 feet tall and has airy blue tubular flowers that remind me a bit of blue Corydalis. Do you know it?

    • NW, You really grow some unusual plants. I don’t grow Tinantia or Rabdosa. They both look beautiful on Google Images but I was intrigued to read about Rabdosa in the Plant Delights catalogue. It sounds wonderful. Carolyn

      • nwphillygardner Says:

        Actually, I think I misspelled what should be called “Rabdosia” and I found that from a Rhode Island vendor called Opus at the Hardy Plant Society Fall Market Sale in August. I’m anxious to see what it looks like after more blooms develop and at mature height since @ 28″ it’s a bit shorter than it’s mature size this year.
        Tinantia seems like a mixed breed cousin of a Tradescantia & a common weed that throws tri-petaled blue flowers along running stems. You can easily see it in Bryn Mawr in a well-planted alleyway that connects the large municipal parking lot to Lancaster Ave near the B.M. Film Institute. Chanticleer has some in a shady bed to the left of the pergola at the back of the tennis court garden. Be forewarned though, it self-seeds furiously and for many people this might make it a nuisance plant. It’s got lots of great qualities:
        Roots quickly in water
        Useful as a cut flower
        Foliage color is distinct in the garden in sun or shade – though more pronounced purple variegation in more sun
        Seedlings are quite easily extracted where the pop up
        Starts blooming in July and goes until frost
        Easily shaped without impacting the appearance of the loose clump.

      • NW, Intriguing plant. Funny you should mention that “well-planted” alleyway in Bryn Mawr. A lot of the original plants and ideas came from me, especially the hellebores. I actually haven’t looked at it in years. Carolyn

  14. patientgardener Says:

    I’m with you I get really annoyed when I see ‘planting for difficult situation’. For me they are a reason to investigate new plants. I love your selection of plants especially the berries.

  15. Thanks for all the great ideas. I love this post–for what you said about fall and shade gardens and also for all the wonderful plants you highlighted. Love the Caramel Coral Bells! And I think I’m going to have to add Beauty Berry somewhere in the garden–others have recommended it, too. Cheers!

    • PP, I do have a lot of part shade areas in my garden so not all these plants are in full shade. All the native Heuchera villosa cultivars are so superior in this area to other coral bells–they are colorful all the way through winter until their new growth comes through in the spring. I never even cut them back. There is also an American native beautyberry which I would plant if I could ever find one. Carolyn

  16. I think that sort of language is used for the general public… but we of course would rather educate people in all of the beautiful plants they can add for years of beauty instead of just bidding their time with some fillers. 🙂

    I love that hypericum. I look forward to seeing it peachy. And reading the next two editions to your series!

    • Julie, The mums that you buy at the grocery store/garden center are not hardy here so do not come back. Replanting them every year is just not sustainable or economical. Also if you really look at them, yes they have a lot of flowers, but they don’t fit in with the landscape. I think they are fine for containers but shouldn’t be planted in the ground. Carolyn

  17. Ha! Take that, magazine article mum-pusher!

    • Sheila, I sound like a playground bully. I do get tired of the mainstream landscape ideas which have gotten us where we are today: dependent on annuals, lawns, and a small selection of non-native “foundation plantings” maintained by noisy and polluting power equipment, toxic chemicals, and constant watering. I truly believe that we won’t survive if we keep this up. Carolyn

  18. Carolyn, I will need more days to catch up with your posts, but this one is very inspiring and reminds me how different can vegetation be depending on geography and vegetation. You are so right in your reply to the last comment. I’ll travel next week to meet some people that are teaching permaculture in Mallorca, it is so crucial to spread the word, thanks for being so strong on that!

  19. Thanks for a great informative post! I love the winterberry!

    My shade garden is actually coming into its own now in fall. It’s not so hot anymore, so everything is perking up. And who in the world suggested that you can’t have color in shade?!

  20. Your fall favorites are favorites indeed. I also like the leaves of hellebores. Even though the flowers are a nice winter gift, the foliage is always so nice and green.

  21. These are all great choices, and I can’t wait to see the flowers you have ahead. That Tea Viburnum is marvelous.

  22. Extremely useful. I am building up a bank of ground cover plants and a lot of your shadey ones match that criteria.

  23. Beautyberry really is great at this time of year isn’t it. I used to really enjoy the white canes and the bright purple berries. My new garden climate is too cold for those now but I like seeing the photos of this lovely plant.

  24. You never fail to inspire me. I’m intrigued by Brigadoon St. John’s Wort – wasn’t familiar with this chartreuse variety. I’ve been eyeing Caramel Coral Bells for awhile – yours look fabulous!

  25. So very beautiful!!! You are definitely the Queen of Shade!! I just added some smilacina to the garden today in one of my rare moist spots. I hope it thrives!

  26. Well Carolyn, you certainly settled that one in a convincing manner. Reading gardening blogs such as yours opens my eyes much wider. Wish that Callicarpa would berry over here, Summer is just too cool for them to develop.

  27. I wanted to let you know your post was
    so beautiful that it is featured on
    WebGarden today. Our readers enjoy
    getting ideas and inspiration. I hope
    many will follow your blog after visiting.
    Thanks for sharing your gardening talents!
    ~Brooke (CreativeCountryMom)
    Here is the link to see your post….

  28. Carolyn, I’m glad the unnamed gardening magazine set you off, because I’m really enjoying this series. 😉 I fell in love with that Italian arum when I visited your garden in the spring and was delighted to see it again at the top of this post. Maybe someday I can find a protected spot in my Maine garden to try to grow this. Meanwhile, I have a number of hostas still looking good, along with pulmonaria, heuchera, and a number of different species of hardy geranium. I’m looking forward to having hellebore foliage to enjoy next fall.

  29. Mary Lou Yost Says:

    I loved reading about your shade garden. How may I receive future posts from you?

    Thank you,

    Mary Lou Yost

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