Garden Photo of the Day

Celebrate Autumn in the Garden

A Massachusetts gardener shares the beauty of the changing seasons

Today’s photos come from Barbara Owen.

I have been working in my eastern Massachusetts garden for over 50 years. The garden has evolved dramatically from the big trees and one peony plant that were here when my husband and I bought our house. Now most of our quarter-acre is garden: flowers borders, vegetables, a woods garden inspired by Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, and some remaining areas of grass that my husband enjoys mowing with an ancient rotary motor. I used to call my garden a “teacher’s garden,” since I worked on it intensively through my summer vacation. Now that I’m retired, summer vacation can start as soon as the snow melts and continue until the ground freezes in the fall. My garden is definitely my happy place.

For this I looked for fall photos, which was a wonderful reason for me to review several years of September, October, and November garden photos. They are mostly close-ups, since I like to focus on images that are small enough or ordinary enough that we might forget to take notice of the beauty around us.

A birdbath with flowering sedum (Sedum spectabile, Zones 3–9) and ornamental grass. (The variegated grass is probably Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegata’, Zones 6–9.)

The essence of autumn: an abundant harvest from the vegetable garden.

Honeybees on ‘Stardust’ sedum (Sedum spectabile ‘Stardust’, Zones 3–9)

A bumblebee on red dahlia

A monarch butterfly on a zinnia (Zinnia elegans, annual). Monarchs need lots of nectar to fuel their long flight to Mexico each fall, so plants like these zinnias that keep flowering into fall are a great way to help them on their way.

Another monarch feeding on a zinnia flower

Frost on scarlet salvia (Salvia splendens, Zones 10–11 or as annual). First frost spells the end for many tender perennials and annuals, but it can do so with such beauty.

A frosted zinnia

Saving seeds from zinnias for next year’s garden. Read our 10 seed-starting tips!


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View Comments


  1. paiya 11/05/2018

    Barbara, your artistic photos show your love for nature. My favorites are the sedum reflected in the birdbath and the frost on the zinnia. Gardens are so more interesting than large expanses of lawn

    1. bdowen 11/05/2018

      Thank you! I love the variety of colors and textures in the garden esp in contrast with a swath of green lawn. And then there are the constant changes with the weather and seasons

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 11/05/2018

    Love your photos, definitely have a gift for focusing in on very appealing vignettes. The frost covered zinnia and salvias look like they have been dusted with sugar and could adorn a fancy dessert. It's so nice to see your visiting monarchs feasting away and storing up energy for their long migration.

    1. bdowen 11/05/2018

      So much is about being present at the lucky time to see something happening and then taking the time to look and photograph. The monarchs are a good challenge as they open and close their wings.

  3. cheryl_c 11/05/2018

    Barbara, you got me with your first picture! Zinnias are my earliest memory (along with rhubarb) of my mother's gardens in the 1950's, and I recently was given a collection of self-seeding zinnias, so our butterflies are well fed - even today as we've not yet had a first hard frost. I also love your vignettes, and am delighted to discover Sedum spectabile Stardust! I didn't know there was a tall sedum that bloomed pure white! Thanks for sharing, and send some more photos soon.

    1. bdowen 11/06/2018

      The sedum is very pretty when it's blooming and the bees do love it. It doesn't last as well into the fall as the pink>reddish ones but earns it's space well during the summer.

  4. btucker9675 11/05/2018

    Thanks for these lovely photos - next year I will include zinnias in my butterfly garden! I also hadn't seen the white sedum and will definitely add it to my garden.

    1. bdowen 11/06/2018

      I've found that the monarchs seem to like the red zinnias the best but will go to whatever is blooming if there aren't many red ones. The zinnias have also attracted painted ladies and both black and yellow swallowtails.

  5. user-7017435 11/05/2018

    Barbara, Thank you for your outstanding photos on this dreary morning in Md. You vegetable photo would look terrific on Thanksgiving table napkins. thank you & good luck, Joe

    1. bdowen 11/06/2018

      I like that idea for Thanksgiving napkins. I might use my collection of harvest time photos, then each one would be different. Thank you for the suggestion!

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 11/05/2018

    Nothing like zinnias. My mom called them Old Maids. At the end of summer, she let the last flowers dry & then crumbled the seed heads over the flower bed. She always had plenty of zinnias the next year. She also did her marigolds the same way.

  7. bdowen 11/06/2018

    My zinnias are much taller than what you might expect- probably from almost 50 years of saving seeds from the prettiest flowers for the next year's garden. I'll try just sprinkling some seed on the ground in the fall but I'm guessing the birds and chipmunks would be happy to clean up the feast and I'd continue to depend on the seeds I'd saved safely indoors!

  8. User avater
    simplesue 05/03/2019

    The frost on that Zennia is so pretty, and wow what beautiful vegetables you grew!

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