My goodness, how time has flown by this year! So much to do, so little time to complete it all. Sometimes I need to remember to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful life I have all around me.
We are already in the fall of the year. Time has brought us round to where things seem to slow down (at least for a little while) if for no other reason than the old bones just move more slowly as cold temperatures and gray rains replace the warmth and life-giving spring and summer months.
I hope you are all enjoying what you can of the amazing transformation going on, as trees become a blaze of color, and leaves fall to cover the ground in colorful carpets. Soon, around my area, we’ll have many more hours of darkness than light and the light we do get will mostly be dimmed by the thick cover of clouds and rain. I look forward to the surprise, energizing days when the sun does manage to shine in the coming winter months and I can putter around out in the new, developing garden.
In the mean time, I’ll be considering all kinds of new conifers to include in my garden. When I come across something exciting, I’ll be sure to share it with you on these pages.
What day is this—Thursday, June 2nd—how is this possible? This has been one of those years that has seemed to fly by at some kind of unnaturally fast pace. It has been one of the most pleasant springs, weather-wise, in my memory. We have had a perfect balance of sunny, dry, nice days and days fill with soaking rains so that the garden I planted weeks ago is growing happily. I also re-potted several of my small, grafted plants and they now have a prominent place filling the deck. All these plants – from dwarf conifers to herbs and veggies to flowers – have brought life to the otherwise plain and empty deck. With this nice weather we are finding the deck a very pleasant place to spend the evenings with our favorite books.
Even with all the great weather, I have made very little progress breaking new ground in the garden transformation. I do have some areas delineated for new beds and the larger veggie garden, but keeping up with life’s routines has prevented me from getting some bigger chores done.
I have had time to dream about new plants for the garden and in a recent visit to the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden, I found another tree that I simply must make room for.
Who doesn’t love autumn foliage color? Autumn is possibly my favorite season (right after spring and summer) and I certainly intend to plant the new garden with opportunities for great color during that season! But why wait for great color?
Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’ begins the spring season with a spectacular flush of autumn color that persists all through the summer and until leaf drop sometime in November! This tidy tree is perfect for the smaller garden and is a gem in a container on the patio or deck. I think this one might be just the right size to fit in my smaller front yard where it can tease the neighbors with its special color for seven or eight months every year.
I hope to get my mind back on my larger garden project at hand as well as return to more regular blogging in the weeks and months to come. Last time I promised to talk about different screening plants and that will have to wait until next time…
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.
If I were to wager a guess as to what color is the most striking – the most eye-catching color of autumn, I would have to say it would be the bright scarlet, oranges and reds of the majority of trees in my local area. Having said that, today I want to point out some extraordinary fall-foliage plants whose primary color is yellow.
One of the first plants to catch my eye this morning, just as the sun was beginning to peak up over the distant hills was Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Morioka Weeping’. This deciduous, broad-leaved tree is covered with roundish, almost heart-shaped leaves. Right now, these normally green leaves are turning a deliciously warm shade of yellow with a hint of orange. I noticed yesterday how nicely the tree was coloring up, but this morning, as it was hit with that low sunrise, the tree began to glow in a spectacular way. Most of the garden remained in the darkness of early morning, hint of frost on the edges of my conifers, but this wonderful pendulous tree was lit up and beckoning to the other plants, “Wake up, it’s a beautiful day!”
I finished my breakfast and continued to watch the show outside my picture window as the bright autumn sunrise steadily climbed and shot its spotlight on another golden deciduous tree – this time, a conifer. Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ is a dazzling golden conifer all year-round. It’s new growth emerges a soft yet very bright yellow and seems to become more intensely bright as the season progresses. Finally, with the cooler temperatures that autumn bring, the bright yellow foliage begins to exhibit a hint of red which gives the long branchlets and overall golden hue. Again, this color continues to intensify until all of the foliage drops to the ground, creating quite a colorful carpet of gold beneath the then, bare framework of the Golden Dawn Redwood.
Soon, my Larix, Taxodium and Pseudolarix will also turn their assorted shades of golden-yellow and drop their needles in anticipation of our coming winter months. I look forward to the intense shots of color those deciduous conifers will provide while making way for more late season sunlight to fall into my garden with the absence of their foliar screens.
It seems difficult to believe that any spring could be longer, colder and wetter than last year when we didn’t see sustained temperatures above 60 degrees fahrenheit until well into June. Even then, the rains continued past their “normal” cut-off date of July 4. Last year I did see much more activity in my garden by now in both my conifers and Japanese Maples – we seem to be two to three weeks behind last year.
It was nice to have a brief respite from the cold rain for three days last week. The thermometer on my patio claims that we had a high of 63° on Saturday. Those nice days were followed by a mix of sunshine, rain and hail and a high temperature of 48°, and now we’re back to our cold showers.
I did enjoy spending time in my garden during those nice spring days. I transplanted several little one year old grafts into slightly larger pots and I managed to get a little weeding done. The weeds do love our constant rain and the fact that said rain prevents me from attacking the weeds in a more timely fashion. I also noticed that my Japanese Maples are beginning to push their new flush of growth (which is a sure sign that the conifers will be following along very soon).
Perhaps the earliest plant to push its first grunt of new growth in my garden is Acer palmatum ‘Goshiki kotohime’. This very dwarf Japanese Maple will often show signs of life well before anything else in my garden. Its orange/pinkish-red new growth is very small and always seems to sparkle because when it is trying to emerge, we are still experiencing plenty of rain and the threat of light frost. I always become a little concerned when I see its first little leaves popping out and I know that frost is forecast in the area. It does seem to be more hardy than it looks since it always just waits for the cold weather to pass and continues right where it stopped without any sign of damage.
‘Goshiki kotohime’ is a great dwarf plant. Its leaves are closely packed on thin branches giving the appearance of being more of an herbaceous plant than a woody small tree. Its new leaves push with brilliant color and then turn green with deeply cut lobes and undulating edges which create a wonderful texture. Being a slow grower, it is an excellent choice for the container garden as well at other themed miniature gardens where it could easily be pruned to maintain a smaller size if needed.
Another Japanese Maple that I love in spring is Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’. The spring foliage is an amazing blend of autumn yellow and orange which is certainly eye-candy while it can confuse ones sense of time. This small tree is a beautiful, compact grower with nice form and a very pleasant color all season long. I love how its color complements the blue, green and gold of my conifers.
Spring is upon us, I just hope that winter will release its grip so that we may enjoy more sunshine and warmer temperatures before the calendar reminds me that it is mid-summer.