Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mid October

It is mid October and we've gone from having the heat on earlier this month to running the air conditioner. It got humid and really warm this week.

Fall colors are not disappointing this year, despite the extreme dryness. Red maples on the back hill are always the first to go. They're late this year -- everything is, and individual trees look skimpy from the drought. But still.

The red buckeye sapling bordering the gravel garden usually drops all its leaves in late September, but this year held on til last week. It's bare now and not willing to have its picture taken.

But my lovely sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) has turned its vivid watermelon pinky red and demands a photo.

Spicebushes (Lindera benzoin) are glowing yellow on the right end of the berm. The ones in the meadow defoliated in July, but these get a little shade and more moisture.

I have planted more spicebush seedlings to fill in this whole area. We took out two big spruces a while back, and now this side of the berm is empty. My intent is to have a mass of leafy spicebush shrubs all growing together here and filling the area with lovely foliage.

But how pretty it is now, all open and graceful, with just the two larger spicebush plants featured and nothing around them.

The Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) by the front door gets fire engine red in fall, but is still thinking about it at this point. It's barely turning, but the new little upright 'Skyrocket' stewartia that I just planted this spring has surprising pumpkin orange color.

The plants that took the drought hardest this summer were the viburnums and dogwoods. They looked blasted all season, and now they are coloring, sort of, but mostly their leaves are curled and brown. No pictures please.

The bottlebrush buckeye hedge also was blasted looking all summer. Their big palmate leaves need shade and the plants like moisture. I have this hedge in sun, and with the horrid dry summer they suffered, and in fact never flowered.

But they have made a late season comeback that surprises me. They look good. Green, leafy, just now starting to change into their clear yellow fall color. The leaves are still a bit scorched but not bad. The hedge looks decent.

Here's another surprise. Blue beech, Carpinus caroliniana, has elegant soft red color. The blue beeches in the meadow, where I am making a "grove", defoliated completely in the summer drought. They are nothing but sticks now. I'll wait to see if the roots live and if they leaf out next spring. Meanwhile, this little one that I dug up and moved to the yard got some water from the lawn sprinklers and lives.

I spent the day putting cages on the little beech and all the slender trunks of saplings in the yard and on the back hill. I learned a lesson years ago that antler rub from deer in the fall is the single biggest killer of my new trees.

So the smallest get a plastic mesh cage clipped on with plastic orchid clips. It ruins the fall look of things, and the cages stay on all winter (I took them off one year right after Christmas, thinking the rut was over and male deer were done scraping trees, and immediately paid the price in a damaged linden and magnolia, neither of which lived after that.) I wrap about 40 trees. Probably overkill, but I have not lost a sapling to antler rub since I started doing this. It's a pain to do, though, and unsightly for six months.

Fragrant asters are spectacular now. I have several clumps in different gardens, all divisions from the first Aster oblongifolius plant I bought. This is "Raydon's Favorite' and it's my favorite too.

The flowers are not fragrant, but the foliage is. It smells like your grandmother's attic when you touch the leaves -- a very old fashioned scent.

You know what I love to see in fall? The tiny twigs of trees that I planted ten years ago -- the potted remnants from end-of-season sales and the volunteers I dug from the woods and several Home Depot rejects -- look like this now.

Each one of those tall slender trees was about three feet tall when I either dug it up from the woods, or unpotted a badly rootbound twiggy thing, and planted it in rocky scree the builder had left. And this is only one section. My reforesting project stretches to the right and way over to the left of this shot, and into the meadow in places, and of course in my yard.

The trees now make a solid leafy screen to block the road, but in mid October I can see their individual shapes as each colors up differently.

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