Archive for November, 2011
For the last several days, the weather in the Piedmont of North Carolina has been unseasonably warm — lows in the 40-50-degree Fahrenheit range, highs in the 70s. A cold front will be blasting through overnight, and the animals in my yard seem to know this. They have been very active, almost frantically feeding. The birds have been loitering on the feeders, and today around noon, I spotted a chubby White-Footed Mouse scrounging for tidbits in my front flowerbed, where I had cleaned up frost-killed perennials the day before.
The mouse ignored me entirely, even when I charged it, yelling unladylike language. I thought it must be very hungry to be so bold. But two hours later, when I found the scene above, I wondered if perhaps something hadn’t been quite right about that well-fed-looking rodent.
We’ve had several cold spells already, and I had assumed that the resident reptiles living in my yard and gardens had all retired for the season. Clearly, I was mistaken. The Black Rat Snake devouring the mouse was doing so in practically the same spot I had earlier seen its victim (or the victim’s relative, perhaps). This snake is about half the length of some specimens I’ve encountered in my yard, but that didn’t stop it from tackling this rodent mouthful:
I am always astonished at how snakes can dislocate their jaws to swallow prey. See how the snake has wrapped its body around the mouse? Black Rat Snakes are constrictors; they squeeze the life out of their prey. For any wondering why I didn’t intervene, the mouse didn’t move during all the time I was shooting photos; neither did the snake, for that matter. And besides, I have a rule on my five acres: no interference between native predator and prey animals. Everybody’s gotta eat, right?
If you click on these photos to enlarge them, you’ll see rain droplets on the body of the snake. It was just beginning to mist heavily when I spotted this slow-motion death scene.
I was going to go back out and take more photos, but the rain grew heavy and steady. It won’t stop now until after the front passes tomorrow morning. I was worried that the snake might get too cold before it could swallow its prey and move to a sheltered spot, so I donned my raincoat and went looking for it.
It was no longer coiled where I had left it, but it hadn’t gone far. Fully stretched out beneath the weeping cherry beside my walk, it sported a large bulge a few inches from its head — the current location of the careless rodent.
I congratulated the snake on its clever feasting just before the cold spell; it should fare well as lower temperatures slow its metabolism. And I thanked it for helping to control the local rodent population.
The snake’s tongue darted out, flicking to the left and right before disappearing into a satisfied-looking mouth. I’m pretty sure I heard it hiss softly, “Reptilessss rule!”
Tis the season of gift buying for many, so I thought I’d offer a few suggestions to you folks buying gifts for gardeners. In today’s installment, I’m focusing on gifts for experienced gardeners. We are the obsessed green-thumbed, dirty-fingernailed bunch you see puttering in our yards in all kinds of weather.
First, if you love us, please don’t buy us a plant — or even a package of seeds. We know you mean well, but odds are you have not been paying close enough attention to us to know which perfect plant we still want to squeeze into our landscapes. Exceptions do occur. A few years back, my mother-in-law caught me sighing over a catalog that featured a bearded iris called ‘Batik.’ She remembered the iris and the catalog, and ordered it for me for my birthday. I still think of her fondly every spring when it blooms.
Bulbs and their relatives (rhizomes, corms, tubers, etc.) are safe to buy if you know exactly which variety your Obsessed Gardener desires. For anything else, I suggest gift certificates. To hard-core gardeners like me, a gift certificate to one of my favorite nurseries is not an impersonal cop-out gift. To me, such a gift is permission to indulge in a fantasy I had not yet found room for in my budget. It is permission to splurge.
In my part of the Piedmont of North Carolina, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by many wonderful speciality nurseries. Whenever I can, I buy from one of these local sources, and if you know which local nurseries the gardener on your list favors, go forth and buy a gift certificate from one of those.
However, the nurseries I favor also operate mail-order services. So to help you southeastern Piedmonters who may not live near local speciality nurseries, here’s my short list of favorites with links to their sites in alphabetical order (so as not to play favorites).
- Camellia Forest Nursery — As you might guess, they specialize in the most spectacular camellia varieties you will ever lay eyes on. But their inventory goes far beyond camellias to many other exquisite plants. Peruse their site; you’ll see what I mean.
- Niche Gardens — This nursery emphasizes native perennials and woodies, but also features a number of choice non-native plants. Niche Gardens is the closest nursery to my house, and when they offer sales, I have great difficulty resisting temptation.
- Plant Delights Nursery — Tony Avent is the plant-obsessed genius behind this nursery. If a choice plant well-adapted to the southeastern Piedmont is out there — anywhere in the world — Tony will find it, test it in his garden, and propagate and sell it if it passes muster. If the gardener on your list loves hostas — or any of a gazillion other choice treasures — a gift certificate from this establishment will make you a hero.
- Woodlanders — This nursery is in South Carolina, but it is the best place I know of to buy small woody shrubs and trees that are hard to find elsewhere. Woodlanders sells most of our native trees and shrubs. They usually offer the straight species, and if they like some named cultivars of those species, they grow and offer those too. These folks ship small, bare-rooted plants, so I recommend this place only to seasoned gardeners. We know how to treat bare-rooted new arrivals, and how to nurture small plants into giants. I love this place because I can get small, less-expensive specimens that fit within my budget. I’m willing to be patient with them, knowing that magnificent trees and shrubs will adorn my yard after a few years. If you know a gardener like me who is willing to patiently nurture small special plants, consider giving a gift certificate from Woodlanders.
Seasoned gardeners are also usually obsessive readers of garden-related literature. However, most of us already subscribe to the magazines we prefer, so I don’t recommend subscriptions as gifts for experienced gardeners, unless they have explicitly told you this is what they want.
Likewise, buying equipment for us is problematic. We are picky. We know what we like and what works. But if you’ve seen us eyeing our favorite garden equipment catalogs, a gift certificate from one of those will always be appreciated.
Perhaps you have a seasoned gardener on your list who is cutting back on his gardening for health or time reasons. Trust me, such folks still love gardens, even if they can’t be active in their own personal Edens anymore. Most gardeners in this category enthusiastically support one or more public garden, usually one in their region. If you know which public garden your less-active seasoned gardener supports, consider giving a donation in his name to that organization.
Even those of us who still actively garden appreciate it when our friends and family donate to our favorite public garden in our names. Personally, I am always delighted when one of my friends or family members honors me with a donation to the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC.
That should be more than enough to help anyone seeking gift ideas for the serious gardeners on your list. Next time, I”ll offer gift suggestions for less-experienced gardeners.
This has been quite a crazy year. World economies teeter, revolutions abound. Change is palpable, perhaps more so than usual for many of us.
When the “real world” grows too nonsensical/ugly for me to watch, I turn to my haven against all madness: my garden. Here my world always makes sense. That doesn’t mean the natural world doesn’t occasionally seem cruel. Sometimes it does. But the dances between predator and prey, flood and drought, heat wave and ice storm — they possess a rhythm born of millennia. The constancy of those changes comforts me.
Even amidst Nature’s harshest cruelties, beauty can be found — insects immortalized in amber, the greening of scarred land after a forest fire. Breath-taking beauty often manifests in Nature for no obvious reason. Does a flower really need to be so exquisitely colored to draw pollinators? Is it merely a happy accident that the same perfume that beckons bees to flowers also intoxicates the noses of humans?
I like to think beauty is part of The Plan. It stops us in our tracks, shakes us from our ruts, reawakens us to our place on this blue-green planet we all share. With that thought in mind, today I am sharing a few of the magnificent photos that Wonder Spouse has taken of our yard over recent years. Readers of this blog will recognize some of the plants. Some I’ve yet to write about.
I believe that beauty is infinite in Nature. It’s all a matter of tuning your eyeballs to see what’s smack in front of you. As we Americans count our blessings tomorrow, I hope you’ll remember to put the abundance and beauty of the natural world near the top of your list.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
You know the saying that moss always grows on the north side of trees? That’s because the north-facing side of tree trunks is usually slightly cooler, shadier, and more moist than their other sides. Moss likes cool, shady, moist spots, so it often grows on the north-facing sides of trees — at least in North America.
Such mossy spots exist because of differences in microclimate. A microclimate is the climate of a small area that differs from its surrounding area. It may be hotter, cooler, wetter, windier — but something makes that spot slightly different from its surroundings.
In the southeastern Piedmont, north-facing steep slopes adjacent to creeks and rivers create microclimates that favor some of my favorite plants: Beech trees, spring ephemeral wildflowers like Hepatica and Blood Root, and Pawpaw trees to name a few.
Even the smallest suburban yard has microclimates. The south side of your house differs from the north side. A hilltop will be drier and windier than the bottom of a hill.
If you pay attention, soon you’ll know which parts of your yard get frost soonest, where the snow melts first — or last. These are clues to microclimates in your yard.
One of the most striking microclimates in my yard is the south-facing wall of my garage. Even during a record 20-inch snowfall, less than an inch piled up within two feet of that wall. The birds figured it out, huddling together for warmth on the one spot of remaining bare ground. I think it may be a full zone higher there. I’m mostly 7B, but I’m pretty sure I could safely grow Zone 8 plants behind my garage. I’ll get around to trying eventually.
Last week, two Winterhazel (Corylopsis sp.) shrubs growing within 20 feet of each other reminded me of the importance of microclimate differences. I wrote about these non-native early spring bloomers here. The one in the photo at the top of this entry shows off its lovely yellow autumn color. Probably because it’s not native, it is slower to color up in fall, which makes it more susceptible to early freezes.
The Winterhazel in the above photo grows a bit uphill from an identical shrub that I planted just above a little pond near our creek. Both shrubs are the same size. The one in the top photo often blooms a few days before the other, but I hadn’t realized the significance of that difference until last week when our low hit 24 degrees Fahrenheit.
The shrub above was unaffected by the cold. But its sister shrub by the pond, which had only just begun to show fall color, was zapped hard. The leaves died instantly, turning pale and falling to the ground. Here’s a photo of the zapped shrub shot the same day as the one above. You may need to click on it to see the few dead leaves still clinging to the branches.
Although unsightly, the zapped Winterhazel is not damaged. It will still bloom next spring. But the striking difference between the appearance of these identical shrubs caused me to take a hard look at their microclimates.
The still-beautiful Winterhazel is a bit higher up the hill, which may mean the cold air doesn’t collect on top of it quite as quickly. But I think the big difference is my house. The pretty Winterhazel is completely protected from north winds by my house. The zapped Winterhazel is not only lower down the hill, it is just far enough to be out of the wind shadow of my home. North winds have a direct line from the north side of my yard, past my house, to the south-facing floodplain where the zapped shrub resides.
The difference between the two microclimates was probably just a degree or two, but combined with a biting north wind, the zapped shrub surrendered to the cold.
These two shrubs reminded me of the importance of paying attention to microclimates whenever I’m planting new additions or relocating established plants. As in so much of life, the smallest differences can have the largest impacts.
For an excellent discussion of microclimates, check out this site.
Decades of vegetable gardening in the Piedmont of North Carolina have taught me the value of post-growing-season clean-up. Our warm and muggy climate offers many opportunities for harmful insects and diseases to make themselves at home. And in the last decade, I’ve noticed that climate change has made our winters much less reliably cold. Prolonged cold spells, say, two weeks when the highs never top 45 degrees Farenheit, and nightly lows lingering in the teens and twenties just don’t seem to happen anymore.
Without those long cold spells to kill overwintering insects and diseases, my best weapon against them is garden clean-up. So as soon as I can manage after our first killing freeze, I remove every speck of dead vegetable plant and annual flowers and herbs from the vegetable garden area. I am not sufficiently dedicated in my composting techniques to be certain it gets hot enough to kill loitering diseases on my dead veggie leaves, so I bag them up and take them to the dump. It’s the only way I can be sure the bad guys don’t gain an easy foothold in my garden.
I’ve found that it’s best to do this as soon as possible, so that any evils lurking among browned tomato vines and limp cucumber leaves are removed before they multiply. It’s hard on my aging hands and back to laboriously cut off every strip of tomato tie attached to the trellis. And my nose inevitably gets sneezy as dried bits of vegetable matter released from yanked stems float on the breezes and all over me. But the effort is worth a few aches. I’ve seen what happens when I wait until spring to remove the remains of the previous year’s garden. Disease and bug problems are always much worse.
Here’s a shot of a piece of the garden with its cleaned trellises:
The white flowers are the Sweet-Alyssums-that-would-not-die. That’s what I’m calling these “annuals” that I grew from seed last spring. Pollinators are enjoying them on warm days. The deep green plants are crimson clover, which I sowed about six weeks ago. They serve as a winter cover crop on my beds.
In addition to fall clean-up, I also rotate crops to reduce pest problems. You should never grow members of the same plant family in the same spot two years in succession because it allows disease and insect pests of those families to prosper at the expense of your crops. The Solanaceae family is the trickiest. That includes peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes; they all share genes and pests. Likewise, you must be mindful not to plant cucumbers, melons, gourds, and pumpkins in the same area two years in a row, since they all belong to the Cucurbitaceae family. Ditto for beans and peas (Leguminosae).
I’ve been working for the last couple of weeks to cut, pull, and bag all the dead vegetable matter and their ties. Wonder Spouse helped me with the taller parts of the trellises that I can’t reach — thanks, Big Guy. Yesterday while I was finishing up, I found the caterpillar in the above photo dining on one of my Bronze Fennels. I had noticed that my fennels were looking chewed on, but I hadn’t spotted the culprit until yesterday.
I confess I was surprised to find a Black Swallowtail caterpillar still alive and eating my plants. But I was also delighted; I plant Bronze Fennel in my garden specifically for these caterpillars. Black Swallowtail larvae dine on members of the carrot family, including Queen Anne’s Lace, parsley, carrots, dill, and fennel. They also like the herb rue. During the growing season when I find one of these caterpillars chewing on a dill or parsley plant, I relocate them to the fennel. This way I can maintain plenty of my favorite herbs and also get to enjoy the beauty of the butterflies when these caterpillars metamorphose.
My favorite caterpillar reference (Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner) says that Black Swallowtails are increasingly rare in the northeastern part of the US, because fields and agricultural lands have largely been replaced by concrete and forest. Members of the carrot plant family don’t generally grow in such places, so there are no food plants for this butterfly.
I’m happy to report that this species is a common visitor of flowers in my summer gardens, and I’m happy to ensure their food supply by offering up Bronze Fennels for their consumption. I suspect the caterpillar in the above photo is about to morph into its chrysalis form for overwintering. I found one of its siblings already metamorphosed, tucked against a rusty trellis stake nearby here:
Sweet dreams, garden friends. May your winter musings make next year’s growing season the most richly vibrant one yet.
It happens so fast this time of year. One moment the forest is ablaze with vivid leaves that dance in the lightest breeze. The next moment the color moves from branches to forest floor, leaves settling at the bases of parent trees, creating patchworks of color for feet to kick up during crisp autumn walks. But the bright leaf carpet is fleeting, quickly morphing to browns and rusts, as if to match the starkness of bare branches above.
Different tree species move through this cycle at varying rates. Leaves of Ashes and Black Cherries in my yard go from green to brown and abandon their branches in mid-September, seemingly eager to begin their winter rest. Tulip Poplar leaves turn bright yellow next, and begin to drift to the ground (along with thousands of seeds) about the time the Red Maples and Sweet Gum leaves are painting themselves gold, pumpkin orange, and garnet red.
Some trees drop their leaves over the course of several weeks. Some seem to receive a signal (perhaps the change in daylight?) that causes them to shrug off their leaves all at once, leaving carpets of color at their feet. That’s what my Halesia diptera did a few days ago, as you can see in the above photo. Wonder Spouse used the opportunity to create a new fall header for my blog.
The Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) that grow along my creek recently cast off their gold and brown leaves simultaneously, creating quite a colorful, crunchy carpet on my floodplain as you can see here:
I love these trees best in winter, when their magnificent trunks glow in weakened sunshine.
The compound leaves of the young Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) on my hill turn a sickly greenish yellow mostly; their weight causes them to stick close together near the base of the tree like this:
Here’s a closer view of some of the leaves:
Sweet Gum leaves end up blowing everywhere, mixing in with the leaves of other species. Here are a few examples that turned my favorite rich garnet hue:
Finally for today, I want to show you autumn leaves of three of my deciduous Magnolia specimens. First up, the fallen leaves of Umbrella Magnolia (Magnolia tripetala). This native of moist forests of the Piedmont and Mountains grows along my creek. I rescued it from a similar setting on a friend’s land that was slated for the bulldozer. Although its leaves are not as large as Bigleaf Magnolia (M. macrophylla), you can see how the Umbrella Magnolia leaves dominate the forest floor:
My two cultivars of Cucumber Magnolia not only bloom at different times, they also drop their leaves at different times. Leaves of M. acuminata var. ‘Butterflies’ turn briefly pale yellow, then brown and fall quickly in mid-October, sticking close to the base of the tree, as you can see here:
The older cultivar of this species that I grow - M. acuminata var ‘Elizabeth’ – not only blooms later, but also retains its rich gold-and-brown leaves much longer. As I type this, Elizabeth has not yet released her bright cloak of autumn color, as shown in this close-up of a few branches here:
Always the last to relinquish their hold on autumn are the native oaks. They only began to color up a couple of weeks ago, and only a few of their leaves have fallen. It will be late November, some years even mid-December, before my mighty oak canopy trees stand starkly naked against a wintry sky.
That’s OK by me. It gives me a reason to postpone raking. After all, there’s no reason to do it more than once, right?
Twenty-one years ago when Wonder Spouse and I moved out here, we lived on a country road. Local traffic consisted of commuters, tractors, and the occasional dump truck. About ten years ago, the county put a water line down the road; suburban sprawl followed fast. Several new schools nearby attracted many little ticky-tacky new subdivisions, most of which are less than half-occupied, thanks to the real estate crash. Still, traffic is constant now, every hour of every day.
We expected this to happen, which is why we were attracted to our house. It sits back about 100 yards from the road; a line of mature pines with an overgrown understory mix of trees and shrubs creates a protective vegetative wall that is almost impenetrable during the growing season, and pretty serviceable as a winter privacy screen too.
Early on, we thought briefly about landscaping the front of the tree line where it faces the road, but the trash soon led us to change our minds. We routinely pick up fast food debris, random papers, trash that falls off trucks on the way to the dump, and on weekends, alcohol containers abound. The road is straight in front of our house — a favorite spot for teenage drag racing, but we’ve seen some serious car-tree collisions on the curvier portions of our road.
This morning when Wonder Spouse went to retrieve the paper, he found the paper box separated from its supportive stake, the two pieces deposited 25 or so feet from where they had been standing the day before. From the tracks, we figure a speeding car charged into the paper box, bounced into the air as it hit a ditch, then landed hard and kept going another twenty or so feet until a pine tree finally halted its forward momentum. You can see some of the gouging tire tracks in the above photo.
The car, which Wonder Spouse surmises was likely an older model Oldsmobile, left parts of itself on top of the gouges of earth and around the wounded tree trunks. Three hubcaps, in various states of wholeness, were strewn all over, along with broken bits of grill, headlights, and what Wonder Spouse identified as a piece of fan belt. Frankly, we’re amazed that the car was able to drive away under its own power — and that we weren’t awakened by what must have been quite a crash. The remains included:
We found the center logo piece a few feet from the hubcap. We also found a couple of personal items that the driver/car occupants must have dropped as they staggered around the car in their drunken stupors:
And, finally, here’s the small pile of damaged trees/shrubs that Wonder Spouse pulled out because the plants were too damaged to recover:
Knowing how little the drivers speeding past my home care about my property, I remain disinclined to enhance their view of it. Having seen the litter tossed on the yards of my neighbors who have beautified their road fronts, I just don’t see the return on labor investment. And it would break my heart to see innocent plant specimens cut down in the night by beer-guzzling idiots.
As Wonder Spouse so elegantly put it while we were cleaning up the mess, “At least we didn’t find any bodies.”
First, apologies to my handful of loyal readers who have been looking for a new post from me. My excuse is the fantastic mild fall weather my part of the southeastern Piedmont has been enjoying. Any self-respecting, self-professed obsessive gardener who does not get herself working outside on days like my region has been experiencing does not merit the aforementioned description.
I haven’t even started leaf redistribution yet, because the oaks in my yard are only just now starting to discard their recently yellowed leaves. No sense in raking twice, if you ask me. But that doesn’t stop other garden clean-up chores, and when you tend five acres of green chaos, there’s always something to do.
I intended to post updates at night. But after a hard day of yard work, my middle-aged body lacks enthusiasm for any effort beyond softly moaning on the couch with a heating pad. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?
As you know, fall is for planting in my region. Dormant plants focus on root growth, and our cooling temperatures allow new transplants to avoid heat stress. Water consumption drops, so even if rains don’t come, the water manually added doesn’t instantly disappear, allowing the roots of new plants to settle in and expand, thereby creating plants better able to withstand next summer’s heat and dry spells.
The plant in the photo above is one of my new additions. All my new arrivals were planted inside my deer-fenced north slope. After seeing the enthusiasm of plants not enclosed by wire cages, I’m having a hard time bringing myself to plant anything new outside on of our protected zones. Until I was able to remove the wire cages from the deciduous azaleas I had planted on our north slope, I didn’t realize that the presence of the cages was inhibiting the vegetative growth of the shrubs.
Although some plants will grow right through a wire cage (and get nibbled by deer), the azaleas just stopped growing when their branches touched the edges of their wire enclosures. I know this to be true, because the first year after we enclosed them within deer fencing and freed them from their cages, every single azalea at least doubled in size.
Because I can’t predict which plants will be inhibited by wire enclosures, it seems prudent to plant all new additions within deer-fence-protected sections of my yard. So this summer, I wandered around my enclosed north slope and pondered possible spots for additions. Then I narrowed down my choices. I knew I wanted a Witchazel. I’ve always loved their late fall/early winter strappy flowers. The hard part was deciding on which cultivar to choose.
I settled on Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Aurora’ because its flowers are supposed to be extra large, showy, and fragrant — yellow with a red tinge at the bases of the flowers. The hybrid vigor of this beauty was evident as soon as I opened the box. Stocky, strong stems are well-branched, and the fall color on the still-attached leaves promised future spectacular autumn shows as the shrub nears its predicted maximum size of ten feet tall and wide. I planted it at the bottom of the hill, where it will receive the extra water it needs to flourish. I even saw a few flower buds, so I’ll be able to see the flowers for myself in a few months.
As I believe I’ve mentioned, I love exfoliating (peeling) bark on trees, and I’m always looking for new specimens with that trait to add to my collection. Cinnamon Bark Clethra (Clethra acuminata) has been on my list to acquire for some time. In fact, I tried it once about 15 years ago, but the deer got it when I foolishly removed its protective cage too soon. I gave it an ideal location on my shaded, moist slope, so I hope it will soon reach its predicted size of 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Its long white clusters of flowers (called racemes) will appear in July, and should add a touch of light to its shady site. I didn’t get a great shot of this new addition, but you can at least appreciate the soft yellow fall color of the leaves:
The last new woody addition is a species of dogwood that I’ve been coveting for many years. Corneliancherry Dogwood (Cornus mas) is native to more northern regions of the eastern US, which is why I haven’t tried it before now. But I’ve always been intrigued by it, because it produces small bright yellow flowers in late winter, and its ripe red olive-shaped fruits are reputed to be highly desirable to birds and other wildlife. My research led me to a cultivar developed at the JC Raulston Arboretum in my home state of North Carolina. This cultivar — Spring Glow — reputedly can generate blooms without the prolonged cold period required by the species. That’s key in my part of the Piedmont, where winter temperatures rarely stay below 45 degrees for more than a few days at a time.
It took me a while to locate this cultivar at a mail-order nursery I trusted, but I succeeded, and I look forward to pops of bright yellow flowers during the winter months. This small tree should also produce striped barked that will enhance its winter appeal even further. If I can keep it happy, Cornus mas ‘Spring Glow’ should grow to a height of 25 feet, and a width of 12 feet. Here’s a shot of my newly transplanted specimen:
See the label to the right of the plant? For new arrivals, I add a permanent metal marker on which I write the name and cultivar on the front, and the source and planting date on the back. If the label from the nursery allows, I usually attach it to the metal label, just to make it easier to see the metal label, which can get buried during heavy leaf falls from surrounding canopy trees.
I tried keeping notebooks about plants in my yard, but I never kept them current. To avoid forgetting the names of the zillions of plants we’ve added to our five acres over the last 21 years, the permanent marker system has been the best solution for us.
Since I planted these beauties in late October, my yard has received a total of about 3.5 inches of wonderful rain. This unexpected blessing could not have been better timed for the new arrivals. My area is still in a moderate drought, but the rains have provided a temporary respite from what could have been a very dry autumn.
Here’s hoping the rains keep finding my yard. But until they do, I’ve got plenty more work out there!
Perhaps the reason so many of us love autumn is its fleeting nature. Almost as fast as the leaves achieve peak color, a storm rips them away, leaving winter-bare branches. Overnight and through tomorrow, heavy, cold rains are forecast for my area, so I spent an hour this morning attempting to document the gorgeous color currently adorning every corner of our five acres of southeastern Piedmont.
For example, take that breathtaking plant in the above photo. That’s my Plumleaf Azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium) that I told you about here. I don’t know which I like better — the late June flowers or these magnificent November leaves.
And then there are the dogwoods. I grow three kinds. Here’s one of the huge (35 feet tall, 20 or so feet wide) mature natives (Cornus florida):
It’s so wide that I couldn’t quite get it all in one shot. Here’s a close-up of one of its branches:
See all the fat flower buds ready to get busy next spring? Really, is there any tree that epitomizes Piedmont more than our dogwoods?
I showed you my evergreen Chinese Dogwood (Cornus kousa var. angustata) when it bloomed here. I mentioned that, although the leaves remain on the tree all winter, they do color up. They are just beginning that transition, as you can see here:
Soon all the leaves will be that lovely shade of red. Again, you can see the flower buds waiting for next June.
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that I also grow a deciduous Chinese Dogwood (Cornus kousa). This specimen adorns the end of our back deck. Its leaves turn a warmer pinkish-red than those of our native dogwoods, as you can see here:
I think all three kinds of dogwood possess considerable assets, which is why I welcomed them all into my landscape. The deciduous Chinese dogwood blooms about the same time as its evergreen cousin.
There’s lots more color where these pictures came from, but I don’t want to overload you with too much beauty at one time. I’ll show you more soon, perhaps when cold rain darkens the sky, while heavy, wet leaves plaster the earth beneath naked trees.