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?
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.
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
*** 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…
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.
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.
There’s more of course. Hosta. Some Geranium. Siberian Iris.
What are your favourite perennials for fall foliage colour?
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.