Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Very Good Year

As many people have noted, this fall was a beautiful one. And a very good year for the color red.

Naturally most of the leaves are on the ground now but I am still marvelling over this year's color.

*Unless otherwise noted the pictures are from early and mid November.*

The only good quality I can find in poison ivy is its fall color. October 28th

I know that red maples that turn red in fall aren't that uncommon: after all they abound in parking lots, they are featured on blogs and I've even seen the odd wild mature maple whose pure red perfection put the cultivars to shame (here anyway -- Laurrie's red maples in Connecticut are gorgeous), which is why I haven't just bought a cultivar.

But they don't abound on this farm. The only pure scarlet or crimson maples I have seen here are saplings, and it appeared they either outgrew this trait or were eventually outcompeted. (After all, I saw a half a dozen tiny willow oak sprigs yesterday that were red, but the only color I've ever seen willow oaks turn is brown, or, in a very wet year, gold.)

In the small pond that is my farm a red maple that turns red in fall had sort of become my white whale.

This year I saw not one but many.

This maple shone like a beacon in the woods.

Red maple at the edge of one of the floodway fields

There are a few small beautiful red maples underneath the tulip poplars above the house, bright spots among the tangle of Chinese privet and greenbriar that dominate half of the understory. This fall I have been making inroads into the privet and will burn the branches that have fruit. I also plan to take cuttings of the most colorful red maples next year, grow them up, and plant them in here. Already the tulip poplars are dying off and will need successors.

I don't recall this red maple turning such a brilliant shade of any color before, much less red.

The blueberry that started my obsession with the genus Vaccinium is half hidden in the woods behind the electric tape paddock. Even though the trees around it have grown considerably since we first saw it, it still manages to color well. Most of my young blueberries were started from cuttings from this one. Nine to 12 inch cuttings taken in March, even before the limbs have budded out, have worked best.

Most musclewoods turn a vivid yellow or orange or a combination of both, but there is the occasional red. Not a fire engine red mind you, but, well, almost pink.

The tree above wasn't the only one with pink tones. Some of the yellow ones did too.

In fact, I have never noticed so much pink in the fall colors as I have this year.

The sweetgums, usually a combo of red, yellow. orange and purple, had a pinkish glow this year.

Pink sourwood along a path in the woods

Virginia sweetspire typically turn many colors -- yellow, orange, red and purple -- but this combination of purple and pink is unusual.

The blueberry below looked almost florescent pink/red when the light was just right. It colored early for a blueberry and at its peak was spectacular even though it's small still. I marked it with pink tape so I can propagate from it next year. This fall rekindled my interest in plants with fall color and I've been tagging all sorts of things to propagate from next year, including the Va. sweetspire above.

Nov. 3rd

Nov. 12th

Water tupelos turn bright red, but I don't always see the ones in the slough by
the creek. This year I made a point to go down there to see the crimson tupelos.

There are young water tupelos up here too, in the ditches: one behind the big bed pictured
in the last post, and a small tupelo in the ditch beside the drive, near the house.

American beautyberry, winged sumac and water tupelo.

Water tupelo behind the big bed and Southern black blueberry. The blueberry was moved from the
old backyard about 9 years ago, when it was about 6 inches high. It's been very happy in its new spot.

Apricot red maple with the same blueberry and Miss Bessie on
Nov. 10th. This blueberry's fall leaves had amazing staying power.

On Dec. 1st, still fire engine red.

Sorrel trees and blueberries beside drive. Most of the blueberries here are black
highbush blueberries, but there is a Southern highbush blueberry beside the drive too.

A blueberry in the floodway field with the pond.

The brilliant blueberry near the dogwood isn't the only blueberry around. There are several beneath the poplars trees and at the edge of the woods. The small tree to the right is a young swamp chestnut oak, which starts out bright red but usually turns brown at the first freeze. Still, the leaves retains a certain richness of color and when the sun filters through them they still appear dark red.

In a previous post I lamented not having the perfect sorrel tree. I still don't, but I found something close at the edge of the woods next to the old house site.

See the red sorrel tree back behind the yellow pepperbush and the burgundy blueberry? It doesn't appear to get enough sun to bloom, but it turned a almost perfect bright red. Before this year I didn't even know there was a sorrel tree back there.

The dogwood has never looked so beautiful. I hope the young ones end up as nice as this one.
The trees with pink tape are seedlings that I planted. I mark them to make sure I won't cut
them down while trimming around them. There are dogwoods, redbuds, and a sorrel tree here.

When I walked down to the creek to look for possamhaw berries for the Christmas wreath, I was disappointed to see no berries at all. The trees are too shaded now, and there's too much competition from (that damned) Chinese privet. Then, bam! I saw this possamhaw loaded with fruit right by the pond.

The encore azaleas often turn a deep plummy color when the weather turns cold, but this year they turned red.

I've managed to get one small stand of meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica) going in front of the big bed. It was as beautiful in November as it was during the summer. I moved several divisions of meadow beauty into the garden and collected seed to start more. Pale meadow beauty (Rhexia mariana, also known as Maryland meadow beauty) grows here too. Pale meadow has flowers that vary from medium pink to almost white, with thinner stems and leaves than R. virginica. I noticed individuals of both species that were very colorful this fall.

This year wasn't just a good year for fall color, but for the garden as well. Last year I didn't like the garden until September, when all of the Bidens bloomed. This year I liked it much more. Two good years of rainfall have helped. Even more importantly, a change in medication has gotten the fibro under better control. I still have to count out my tasks for the day, dread cold fronts and some days really struggle to get/keep going, but the situation is improved over what it was.


  1. I was amazed by the beauty of that poison ivy! It's almost too pretty to remove. I think it's smart that you're marking the trees and other plants you want to encourage in future years - you have so many, I'm sure it would otherwise be impossible to keep them straight.

    Best wishes for many, many good days in the garden in 2015.

    1. Thank you Kris, and best wishes to you in the coming year.

      I'm not even removing that particular poison ivy -- there's so much of it here that I just keep it in check where I garden. Even so, I've never been successful in eradicating it anywhere. :/

  2. What beauty you had in your gardens and land this fall! Just wonderful.

    I am so glad to hear that your new meds are helping you deal better with your fibro. That's a blessing for you.

    Love & hugs to you ~ FlowerLady

    1. Thank you Lorraine and love and hugs to you too.

  3. Fall was wonderful wasn't it? I haven't paid enough attention to the science behind fall leaf color. Our big maple always turns the most amazing shade of yellow. Three maple trees just down from our property are always orange. I can't think of any maples in the area that have a reddish color. I love our large maple and can't imagine fall without that shower of yellow leaves.

    1. You've inspired me to look up the science behind leaf color.

  4. You have had a good season for red. Ours seemed a bit more muted than usual. I think my favorite plants for fall color are the serviceberries and aronias.

    1. After seeing your serviceberries I want to order at least one, even they grow wild here. Only one of mine turns and not every year. They seem susceptible to leaf spot and/or cedar-apple rust.

  5. So glad you've enjoyed a good gardening year. I love seeing reds in the fall. Happy Holidays.

  6. Beautiful fall colors! The pink of the Sweetgums and the variegated Sweetspire are particularly lovely. I agree that Poison Ivy is beautiful (but of course dangerous) in autumn. Thanks for sharint your beautiful photos!

  7. You are so lucky to live in such a beautifully wooded place with spectacular colour.

  8. You've had some really lovely reds in your fall color this year. I've read that weather and amount of rain, plays a part in how red, or in what colors, trees turn. I'm not sure if anything was different this year about your summer or fall weather. I hope you have great success in all your cuttings, and hope you have a good year in 2015.

  9. A wonderful look back at your fall colors! It is amazing how the colors vary from year to year. Your blueberries are stunning. I always think of fruit when I think of blueberries, but the fall color is equally wonderful.

  10. Wonderful pictures. As we don't have marples here, I realy love your pics!
    Have a happy holiday season and all my best to you and yours


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