Coming Soon — Magnificent Fall Color

September 22, 2009 | By | Comments (5)

In addition to being the object of constant adulation, one of the Grump’s foremost pleasures is touring the South’s most beautiful gardens. And if you love fall color as much as I do, there is one garden in Kentucky you must see before you die — Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest.


Sugar maple

This special place near the town of Clermont encompasses 14,000 acres. It was the gift to Kentucky (and the rest of us) by whiskey baron Isaac W. Bernheim, who made his fortune producing I.W. Harper whiskey. Just making good whiskey would have been a sufficient life’s legacy for the Grump, but Bernheim wanted to leave a living legacy that would, in his words, “further the love for the beautiful in nature.”

The photos you see here (like the sugar maple above) are mine.To see much better ones taken by Southern Living photographer Ralphie Anderson (aka the “brain eater’), pick up a copy of the October 2009 issue of Southern Living and turn to “Magnificent Fire of a Southern Fall.” You’ll also read some typically inspiring prose by me.

The Arboretum is a great place to walk, hike, bike, or tour by car. You won’t find a better venue from which to admire the sculptural grace of mature trees in a natural setting. Notable collections include maples, dogwoods, magnolias, conifers, cypresses, hollies, beeches, and buckeyes. You’ll also find a slew of other fine trees perfect for the home garden, like this here Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata):



Unenlightened gardeners (of which, thankfully, you are not one) often equate fall color with only colorful leaves. To the Grump, this overlooks a sensational source of fall color — namely, colorful fruits and berries, which last a lot longer than leaves. One of Bernheim’s finest collections is crabapples. Take a gander at this red-fruited one.

Red crab

Or what about this yellow crab below? I think this one was developed at Bernheim. I’m urging them to name and propagate it. Who wouldn’t want this gem in their yard?

Yellow crab

Bernheim is not just about trees. There’s an elaborate trail system that takes you through prairie gardens and wildflower meadows that teem with native plants and animals. I shot the photo below on a cold and frosty October morning. How I suffer for you, my readers!



Before you leave, be sure to check out the ultra-cool Visitor’s Center (below), the first certified Platinum LEED building in Kentucky. Built largely of recycled materials, it captures solar energy, purifies wastewater, and uses geothermal heating and cooling. Notice the way it fits into the landscape. My only suggestion — add a pair of McDonald’s arches.



Got any favorite spots for enjoying fall color or know someone with a magnificent fall garden? Tell Grumpy about it! For more info about Bernheim, visit or call (502) 955-8512.

(Note to Bernheim Executive Director Mark Wourms: You know where to send the bourbon.)


  1. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    To my knowledge the yellow-berried crab is not in the trade yet, but it should be. And I totally agree the deciduous hollies and viburnums supply excellent fall and winter color and deserve wider use.

    September 26, 2009 at 6:33 am
  2. Frances

    Hi Grumpy, what a place that is, to allow the trees all the room they need to reach full potential. Something rare in today’s small gardens. The yellow berries of that crabapple grabbed me by the shirtfront and shouted my name! Not available? Hope they decide to share someday. Like Dave, I believe the winterberry hollies and many viburnumbs offer some berrylicious fall accents.

    September 25, 2009 at 12:30 pm
  3. Dave

    So many people overlook the berries for fall color! Our favorites are pyracantha and beautyberry. Deciduous hollies aren’t bad either. Fall color is definitely on its way.

    September 22, 2009 at 9:57 pm
  4. Jennifer Allen

    I saw the first picture and KNEW it was Kentucky! So glad to see more KY in SL (love your editor! 😉 But don’t you dare step a foot in this state without getting in touch with me. Loving the Grumpy Gardner, not as good as getting a dose of grumpy in person…but I’ll take it!

    September 22, 2009 at 5:01 pm
  5. Margaret Zurkuhlen

    What a great piece on Bernheim–we are thrilled! Thanks, and please come back to Bernheim soon. I’ll make sure Mark puts the bourbon in the mail-ha!
    -Margaret Z.

    September 22, 2009 at 2:18 pm

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