Last night Rob and I went into Philadelphia for the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society Award Reception, a celebration for the Green Garden contest I won. It was a proud and happy night for me and a wonderful way to salute the garden year. On a large, flatscreen TV, photos of all the winning gardens played and it was just great to see so many beautiful gardens from around the Delaware Valley.  The food was delicious and wine and beer were poured in abundance. An exceedingly happy mood filled the room and I was in good company with other “birds of a feather.” The President of PHS gave short congratulatory speech which included a list of the judging criteria for the contest: gardens were judged based on design, appropriate plant and material selection as well as care and maintenance of the garden overall. He also said he felt the important thing about the contest is acknowledging the people who create beauty they show to their communities by way of their gardens. When people ask me what I do for a living, I sometimes say, “I am a garden evangelist.” I say this because the most important thing I feel I do is to promote the crafting and installation of beautiful, healthy gardens: gardens that inspire people to want to spend time in them, and to help homeowners learn how to go about this art of gardening.  So “going for the gold” in terms of the contest did not bring me a gold medal per se, but an award called, “Garden of Distinction,” which to me is way bigger than a medal.

In the garden this week, “going for the gold” is the gorgeous display of gold foliages that have been breathtaking. The colors range from coppery yellow to what I call sunshine yellow and some I call a butterscotch yellow. Here are some of my favorites by category:
Bright sun yellows: River Birch tree in my own garden and my neighbor’s Ginkgo and Redbud trees;
Bronze yellows: Golden Rain Tree, Star Magnolia, Yellowwood tree and Amsonia;
Butterscotch yellows: Bottlebrush Buckeye, Allspice, Summersweet, Witch Hazel, Solomon’s Seal and my neighbor’s gorgeous Linden Trees (even though they have a million gazillion to the tenth power number of leaves, all starting to fall right now. I don’t care; I adore these trees and they are among my favorite in the neighborhood.)

There are subtle differences in the yellows from last year, too; I don’t recall the bronze yellow being as predominant. Maybe this is due to the dry weather conditions we had this summer. Also of note:  trees seem to be colored so much later this year than in the past; it has been warm right along with only a few light frosts. Winter always seems long and cold so I am enjoying the mild weather. Plus, it was a treat to work outdoors today, supervising my crew at a favorite property in Pennsylvania. The colors there are predominately red and copper and the drive through Chester County was glorious–blazes of red maples, beech trees with their smooth grey bark contrasting the gold and tawny leaves. When I arrived at my client’s house, I saw a single fawn stepping under a tree canopy, picking at the acorns. She didn’t even turn her head when I shut the truck door, so used to people now.

How to incorporate autumn color into your garden? First, check to see what the “borrowed” landscape is for you–that is, what colors are around your neighborhood? Do you want to match or contrast? For my garden I wanted mostly yellows with punches of red. Then, go with what you can add that can be in proportion to your existing plants. Winter is an excellent time to mull this over and to edit. Remember, you should also love the foliage during the season and it should work with your other plants that you do like. My point is, consider what the plants do all year. Autumn gold at the end of the season is near as good as money in the bank.

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