Each one of our four seasons is truly unique. Although each season has its definitively generalized weather conditions which grant its own distinctiveness, here in the rainy part of the Pacific Northwest, sometimes those unique characteristics are blended somewhat smoothly like an artist might transition from one color in a painting to another. Alternatively, autumn in my corner of the world, often begins as one of the driest seasons and ends with the wet and stormy conditions of winter or spring. Even with the eventuality of autumn’s rain—there is something absolutely magical about this time of year—which may explain the appeal of some of the contemporary expressions of celebrating Halloween.
The moon, when it shows itself, is often partially obscured through a patterned layer of quickly moving cirrocumulus clouds in the nighttime sky. Deciduous trees make their transition from majestic branches full of rich green foliage to the colors of bonfires and sunsets before floating lifeless to the ground, exposing the rugged and sometimes twisted intricacies of their skeletal structure. The air takes on a new scent: that delightfully organic aroma of fallen leaves in the beginning stages of decomposition; the hybrid incense of Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar, Big Leaf Maple and Alder burning in woodstoves; and the stimulating sweetness of spiced, hot apple cider simmering in the crockpot all work together to conjure memories of happy days either lived or imagined.
Of course there are many trees which add to the brilliant autumn experience. The Japanese Maples are a group that are not only perfectly scaled to today’s smaller gardens, they also provide an assortment of lush colors, spring through summer, and then they ignite during autumn to bring some of the most alluring colors of burgundy, red, orange and yellow which may measure up against any plant, anywhere.
For example, Acer palmatum ‘Tobiosho’ puts on one of the most reliable, early, bright-red autumn foliage displays in the garden. During the spring and summer, ‘Tobiosho’ contentedly fulfills its role as a small, multi-trunked, green-leaved tree, slowly growing into a prominent position in the garden, eventually providing shade for other more light-sensitive plants. Suddenly, with the onset of autumn, ‘Tobiosho’ sheds his mild-mannered persona, dawns a bright red cape, and truly becomes a super, intensely colorful spectacle in the garden.
A conifer that really does not change color during autumn, but does seem to stand out more brightly in the low autumn sun and against a backdrop of brightly colored leafy trees is – Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’. This amazingly bright blue conifer is known for its incredible color. If there were space for only one large blue conifer in my garden, it would be ‘Hoopsii’.
Finally, I must mention the delightful Pseudolarix amabilis, a deciduous conifer whose soft green needles emerge fresh and new each spring. During the summer months, one may not notice this fine textured background tree, but with the first hint of autumn, its soft needles turn bright yellow and then golden brown before dropping to completely expose knobby, tan, bare branches.
Enjoy what remains of our magical autumn season as you prepare for what winter may bring to your region.