Tree Transformation

Paper Birch November

One of my favourite trees is the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera).  Although some people give it a pass, saying it’s ‘messy’ or ‘short lived’ or ‘disease prone’ I say “Who Cares?”   Just look at  the gorgeous white bark, and marvel at how layers will peels off, only to reveal a new surface even more brilliant than the last.

I especially like to watch as young trees, with grey brown bark that makes them very similar in appearance to other Betula, start to turn white.  You can see in this photo the trunk on the left is still quite dark, while the larger trunk in front, older perhaps by just a year, is revealing its bright mature colour.

Yes, in our (relatively) warm County it may live only 30 to 40 years, that’s quite possibly longer than I’ll be around!   And it may get attacked by one bug or another – but very few trees these days are resistant to all insects.  And it may indeed shed twigs and, gasp, leaves in fall.  But really, who cares?
Transformation

If a polygonatum falls in the forest…

Decay - Solomon Seal Nov 18 2017 c

Solomon Seal is probably my favourite shade tolerant perennial.  It has graceful arching stems with beautiful, dainty hanging flowers in spring that bees love; the leaves stay dark green all summer; it’s extremely drought tolerant and, in the autumn, everything turns first deep yellow then a beautiful orange/tan before leaves and sometimes whole stems collapse to the ground.

I never ‘clean up’ this garden  – I let everything decompose as it falls.  And then I wait for the new shoots to poke through this natural mulch and start the cycle again.

 

Solomon Seal

Polygonatum biflorum with its June flowers

Transformation

Little Promises

Lilac 2 flower bud Oct 27 2017

It’s official – winter is nigh

Snowfall has come, dark clouds are high

Leaves are all gone leaving branches so bare

Hoping these buds bring flowers to the air

Next spring.

 

Magnolia Bud November 4 2017

Magnolia acuminata flower bud

 

Korean Spicebush November 4 2017

Viburnum carlesii – Korean Spicebush flower bud

Aronia melanocarpa flower bud Oct 27 2017

Aronia melanocarpa – Black Chokeberry flower buds

Forsythia flower bud Oct 27 2017

Forsythia ovata flower buds

 

*** These photos were taken about a week ago before the first frost and fist dusting of snow; today, almost all the leaves are either gone or very very brown…

 

 

Perennials Do It Too!

Woodland Sunflower

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) – I love seeing the green vein skeleton as chlorophyll slowly withdraws from the leaves.

This is the time of year everyone on the eastern part of North America – and anywhere else there’s woods and forests with deciduous trees – goes gaga over fall foliage.  Folks take road trips to the country or the hills wherever they may be to take it all in, and Instagram, blogs and Facebook pages are chock a block with images of gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows.

With all the hullabaloo about the trees and some shrubs (I start drooling when I see some Viburnums in late October)  the changing colours of perennial leaves often go unnoticed.  Maybe this is because, low to the ground, they don’t stand out amongst fallen maple or oak leaves.  Maybe folks are so busy looking out and up at the trees they don’t take the time to look down.  Maybe it’s because a lot of people ‘clean up’ their flower beds – cutting back foliage before it has a chance to display the subtle and oh so temporary slendour that can be just as gasp-worthy as a Staghorn Sumac.  Here are a few examples from my garden.

Solidago

Who could have anticipated Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) leaves would turn such a lovely red… certainly not all of them do; more often than not they just turn brown and wither away but this year quite a few are truly beautiful.  Perhaps it’s a specific variety that is spreading around.

Solomon Seal

Solomon Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) will get even yellower before the leaves finally just fall off, leaving a forest of stalks over winter.

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), below left, and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), below right,  have different shaped flowers and leaves – but both turn a beautiful orange/red, pallida sooner than purpurea.

Sedum spectabile

After the flower heads turn brown and the fleshy leaves dry and fall off, it’s the stalks of Sedum spectabile that turn a glowing rosy pink.

There’s more of course.  Hosta.  Some Geranium.  Siberian Iris.

What are your favourite perennials for fall foliage colour?
Temporary

The Artifact

Burning Bush October 27 2017 v1

Many years ago I received, as a birthday gift, what was immediately labelled the artifact.  It’s an ancient manure spreader, purchased from a nearby farmer and slowly, while I was away for the day, pulled by tractor along the road and into our back field.  What a surprise to come upon it!

I loved it then and still do – and have experimented with many ways to display it:  letting wild raspberries, Goldenrod and other tall natives grow up in the middle; planting asparagus along one side; allowing it become almost entirely hidden by uncut grasses – just a corner or two peeking out.

I think I’ve settled on this – two Burning Bushes (Euonymus alatus) purchased and planted because the giver of the artifact loves them, and mow down everything else.  I love this view of the artifact, especially in late October into November when the bush leaves do indeed appear to be in flames.  I know design theory says to plant things in threes but in this particular instance, I think the third similar object is the artifact itself – its rusting spokes, wheels and body has become the third point in this triangle.
Peek

A Last Hurrah

There’s not much left blooming in the garden these last few days in October – the only thing looking halfway decent are the patches of sweet Alyssum.  The huge Zinnias, colourful Cannas and even the merry Marigolds are either withering away with the cold nights or had to be pulled to make way for bulb planting.  (I know – a lot of people really hate Marigolds.  I, on the other hand, really LOVE them and grow them every year; next year’s seeds are already dried and waiting in tiny envelopes for April germination.)

There are still a few delightful surprises though.

reblooming Iris Oct 28 2017

This white Iris is STILL blooming!!!!!  There’s a half dozen flower stalks and a few buds left that have survived our light frost.  Amazing!!!

Blanket Flower October 27 2017

I took a few Gaillarda (Blanket Flower) seedheads off a rocky slope in Toronto’s Tommy Thompson Park many many years ago, and have tried to grow them all over the property.  Not surprisingly, the only place they have really thrived and come back year after year is on a similar rocky slope!  No compost, leaf mould, mulch or watering wanted!  They bloom non stop from mid summer until…

Shasta Daisy Oct 19 2017

I bought a little 10 cm pot of Shasta Daisies last spring and, stupidly, tried to make two plants by splitting it down the middle.  Neither half was happy.  They appeared to just wither away over the course of the season.  I left them alone though and this year, with no coaxing and quite by surprise, they came up bigger and better.  Also a surprise is how short this variety is – a reminder to NEVER throw away plant tags until I’ve recorded everything written! 

Veronica Oct 28 2017 v1

I have no idea what variety of Veronica this is (again with the tag!!!) – last year it was a ground hugging rosette of leaves that spread quite a bit.  This year it threw up tall spikes and then the little flowers, a perfect blue, started to appear and bloom, from the bottom up.  It’s been three months now!  And they’re still attracting the last desperate bees needing to top off before winter.

Finally, another Veronica – Whitley’s Speedwell.  It holds a special place in my heart because the original small clump was given me by a dear lady in Toronto many many years ago.  A large patch of it was growing up a slope by the sidewalk in front of her house and I admired it year round.  Its original spot in my garden is still going strong and growing year by year.  It’s generally drought tolerant (I’ve never watered it) although last year by the end of the summer drought only the fringes survived (it all grew back this year).   But I’m really impressed by my new patch – started with just four hand-full’s pulled up from the original, it has now filled in to border the side patio.

AND – the best part – it’s evergreen.  ALSO the best part is this new patch flowered en masse as usual in the spring but continued to send up dozens of individual, tiny blooms all year.  Last week, for some reason, it just burst out again with hundreds of flowers.  Weird and wonderful!

Whitley's Speedwell closeup Oct 27 2017

Veronica Whitley’s Speedwell