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Late Fall Colors

October 27, 2014

russet oak leaves_1In my Maine garden, October is turning into November. Last week brought a string of cold, rainy days that provided a preview of November and a reminder of why no Mainer has ever declared November their favorite month. By the time the storm passed, most of the vivid fall foliage for which New England is famous had been stripped from the trees.

But as I walked around the garden yesterday doing my weekly inventory of what’s in bloom (the last for this year), I found lots of late fall color. Although many leaves, including the scarlet and orange maple (Acer) leaves, have already turned and fallen from the trees, color can be found on other trees that hang onto many of their leaves through winter. The leaves on the oak (Quercus) trees mostly have muted russet tones.

oak leaves fall sky_1 Here and there, though, an oak tree shows brighter colors against a clear blue October sky.
The beech (Fagus grandifolia) leaves turn from green to gold to copper. beech leaves fall colors2

These colors are mirrored in the colors of hostas going into dormancy and in the yellows and golds of Amsonia foliage glowing in the slanted rays of the afternoon sun.

hosta gold leaf glowing amsonia foliage

Some scarlet hues can be found in the foliage of hardy geranium and of Spirea japonica.

geranium scarlet leaves spirea scarlet foliage

There is also a surprising amount of green to be found among the foliage of late fall perennials, including hardy geraniums, Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), and Heuchera.

green fall foliage

Here and there among the foliage, there are still some flowers providing late fall color. These include some tiny blooms of Spirea japonica ‘Magic Carpet,’ red clover (Trifolium pratense), the amazingly long-lasting Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice,’ and flowers on chives that have somehow been fooled into thinking its spring.

late fall blooms

All too soon, the predominant color in my garden will be the white of snow. But I’m enjoying these late fall colors while they last.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2014 10:40 pm

    Even after the cold and rain, Jean, you’ve got more fall color going on that I’m likely to get during the entire season. Best wishes.

    • October 31, 2014 8:28 pm

      Kris, Thanks for reminding me not to take the vivid colors of my New England environment for granted. Fall here, even late fall, is a very special time of year.

  2. October 28, 2014 8:04 am

    The colours in our gardens resemble each other at this season — as do our posts! I think we both are realists with positive personalities. We enjoy the colour that is there and know that white will soon dominate.

    • October 31, 2014 8:41 pm

      Pat, I think you are right. Although you garden on a much larger scale than I do, our climates and seasons are very similar — and we react to those seasons in similar ways.

  3. October 28, 2014 8:20 am

    thank you for sharing these sublime images . . . here on Cape Ann, we have just passed the peak of color with our sugar maple burning red like a leafy volcano erupting, and the rains last week filled the creek once again and the frogs are happy . . .

    • October 31, 2014 8:44 pm

      Maryclaire, Cape Ann is a beautiful place. Somehow I missed the peak of my big maple this year — I think because my views out to that part of the property are temporarily blocked by my ongoing construction project. One day, I looked up and the leaves were already gone. Today, though, I drove just 30 miles to Portland (with its milder coastal climate), and the maple trees there were still beautiful.

  4. Nell Jean permalink
    October 28, 2014 10:25 am

    Still much to see in your garden. Unless we get rain soon, this will be another year of going from green to brown without brilliant colors in between.

    • October 31, 2014 8:45 pm

      Nell Jean, It appears that I will still have a few flowers blooming (in containers) on Nov. 1 — unheard of here. It is supposed to get seriously cold (with possible snow) tomorrow night, however, so that will be the end of them.

  5. October 28, 2014 11:38 am

    Hi Jean, despite being able to eat lunch outside in the warm sunshine for two days in a row now, autumn leaves are beginning to pile up here too. I liked seeing all the various colours of your trees and shrubs. We’re watching our beech hedge turn from green to gold to copper too.

    • October 31, 2014 8:47 pm

      Sunil, We were promised some of that warm-enough-to-eat-lunch-outside weather earlier this week, but it never materialized. A beech hedge sounds like it would be a glorious sight in autumn.

  6. October 29, 2014 8:22 pm

    Jean, Thank you so much for posting this photo of the beech. The minute I saw it, I knew you had solved a mystery for me. A couple of weeks ago I released a large tree on my overgrown property from its pine prison but thought it was an elm. Somehow, that did not fit as the bark didn’t seem right for an elm. It is a beautiful beech with smooth gray bark and standing about 100 feet tall. Thank you so much for helping me properly identify this tree.

    • October 31, 2014 8:50 pm

      Kathy, How wonderful to have such a large beech tree! All mine are quite small. I did a little research today and learned that beech trees grow late in ecological succession and, unlike many deciduous trees, are quite happy to grow in the shade of evergreens like pine and hemlock. My sources said that they are also notoriously slow-growing, which might explain why mine are only about 15 feet tall, but that they can grow quickly in environments with rich soil and lots of moisture (neither of which are found on my property, but maybe on yours).

  7. October 30, 2014 1:17 am

    Love the leaf colors still going there. Looks about the same here Jean. I still have a third of the back gardens and a few other chores which should take 6-8 hrs more time to finish. I am amazed and the colors and plants still growing this year but our first freeze is this weekend they say.

    • October 31, 2014 8:56 pm

      Donna, I’ve done a minimum of garden chores this fall. I think there’s just too much going on with my construction for me to enjoy time in the garden. It will be more to do in the spring, when life will be less chaotic (I hope!!) and I’ll be eager to get outside.

  8. October 31, 2014 3:06 pm

    What a good idea to do a monthly inventory of what’s flowering Jean – I shall try it myself. All the foliage is beautiful, but I particularly enjoyed the Amsonia and the hosta leaf. Hope you are settling well to being a full-time Mainer!

    • October 31, 2014 8:55 pm

      Cathy, I actually do that garden inventory weekly — which is perhaps a bit too obsessive. But I like being able to look back over my years of records and seeing how this year compares to previous years. I think I got started on this after I heard a story on the radio about scientists in England tracking climate change through the records of a single garden, which had daily observations of weather, plant growth and blooms going back more than 300 years!

  9. November 1, 2014 11:20 am

    I just love the amount of color one can find in nature during autumn. Wonderful photos, as usual, Jean.

    • November 2, 2014 7:30 pm

      Thanks, Joene. Soon, my landscape will fade to green (of pine and hemlock trees) and white.

  10. November 2, 2014 1:58 pm

    And as seems to happen twice a year, every year, one of us goes into summer as the other anticipates winter 🙂

    • November 2, 2014 7:31 pm

      Jack, Most of Maine got snow today (happily, very little here — I’m just not ready yet!), so we have gone beyond anticipating winter. If anything, people are trying to fight it off a bit longer 😐 .

  11. November 3, 2014 4:20 pm

    Your garden is always such a pleasure…Fall fits right in with that pattern of gorgeous color and texture.

    • November 4, 2014 9:47 pm

      Charlie, Mother nature really does provide us with an amazing variety of colors and textures if we just take the time to look.

  12. November 3, 2014 4:54 pm

    Hi Jean. I’m guessing at this moment your colorful fall garden is dressed in winter white. Stay warm!!

    • November 4, 2014 9:48 pm

      Kevin, Amazingly the snow missed us here. Poland was on the western fringe of the storm, with just a few snowflakes mixed in with the rain. Just a few miles further east, the snow stuck; and in eastern Maine, more than a foot of snow brought down power lines.

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