Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fall Color on Franklin Street and the UNC campus

We took a day trip to Chapel Hill on Sunday. A sunny day and beautiful to look at, but cold (mid
30's) and blustery. I was hoping against hope there was some fall color left and luckily, there was!

We went to lunch at Spanky's on the corner of Rosemary and Columbia, where we were seated on the second floor. In October we were there prior to a rare Thursday football game and everything was packed, including the Top of the Hill restaurant across the street. Top of the Hill has an upper level outdoor porch that is lined with tables at a slightly higher level than the second floor of Spanky's. On Sunday the porch was empty and lined with plastic, because no one in their right mind would have wanted to dine outside on such a day! The wind was frigid. Yet I couldn't believe the number of people I saw on the street in shorts or skirts with no stockings. The runners I could semi-understand (although not really) but the rest not at all.

It was so cold that when we got back to the car at the Planetarium I had second thoughts about walking around. Gene found an extra sweater and I put that under my coat and put on the toboggan I had brought. Gloves too. With that and fast walking the cold was just bearable.

At first glance I thought these Chinese Pistache on Franklin Street were White Ash trees, because of the purplish tinge, but the trees are too small and the leaves smaller as well. White Ash wouldn't make a good street tree anyway, they can get big and are prone to many problems, including leaf spot, canker, dieback, and borers. That said, I still want one.

Isn't the color gorgeous?

Bald Cypress get big too but this one has made a fine street tree. I don't know how these trees are getting the nutrients they need to grow as well as they have, but obviously they are.

Several of the street flower boxes were planted with Virginia sweetspire. This one had particularly good color.

We headed onto campus and basically went from one spot of color to another. I was strongly reminded of a quote by Albert Camus that I have seen on several blogs in the fall: "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." It's true! There were several treasures on campus, even this late in the year.

Not to mention real flowers. Pink camellias were planted next to Vance or Pettigrew Hall.

Yellow grape vines climbing over a wall next to Hyde Hall.

This vivid Japanese maple beckoned from a distance.

Exactly the same color as the red hot embers of a fire.

Red maple

The oaks were still colorful, ranging from russet brown to gold to orange to red. I've gotten rusty with IDing oaks. Some are easy to identify and others are not easy to tell apart at all. The red oaks can be particularly difficult to identify. Pin oak leaves have 5-7 lobes with sinuses that go almost to the center of the leaf, forming a "U" shape, and axillary tufts of hair on the underside (looks like a tiny spiderweb between the mid-vein and branching veins). Scarlet oaks have 7 bristle-tipped lobes, usually smooth underneath, with C-shaped sinuses, although a scarlet oak with good fall color is unmistakable, as you can imagine. (I want one of those too.) Sounds straightforward, right? Yet Dirr writes that buds are probably the only reliable way to tell a Shumard from a pin or scarlet oak.
All I can say with any certainty is that this is a leaf from some sort of red oak.

Signs help.

A picture from Gardening with Native Plants of the South shows a picture of Shumard Oak with blazing red foliage, but a plantsman in Virginia told me that the only time he saw Shumards turn bright red was after Floyd. Usually Shumards turn anywhere from bronzy yellow to chesnut red.

Oak near the old well.

There was color from fruit as well as from fall leaves.

I loved the shape and fruit set of this American Holly.

A Foster's holly in front of Howell Hall.

These hydrangeas looked a little sad in the cold, but still lovely against this old brick.

I think this cherry must be 'Okame', based on the fall color and reddish-brown bark. Plus, it's a commonly planted cherry. This tree looks birch-like with its fine branching and yellow leaves

but the bark screams Prunus.

The fothergilla was another attention grabber. There are several in front of Alumni Hall. One of the most beautiful fall foliage plants ever.

Next: Fall color in the Coker Arboretum and Gimghoul Road neighborhood.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Crooked Trees

I have not yet gotten good pictures of the crape myrtles up top when they are in bloom. There are 3 near the end of the driveway. The crape myrtle in the middle is a seedling of 'Pink Lace' that I grew from a cutting. The two on each side are its seedlings.

The full size version of the 'Pink Lace' seedling is a magnificent tree, with huge trusses of pink flowers and a graceful semi-weeping habit. It has only one fault: zero fall color. An almost cardinal sin for a crape myrtle, but I'm willing to overlook it because otherwise the tree is so nice. The two seedlings on either side have more than one fault. Like their beautiful seed parent, none of the seedlings have any fall color. In addition, the seedlings just look kind of ...strange. Even though the shade of the nearby tulip poplars never touch the trees, they lean away from the poplars anyway, as though eschewing their company. They look like shrubs and not trees. (In contrast another of the seedlings, near the apple trees, has always looked like a tree.)

I limbed up the seedling below a few years ago in an effort to make it look more tree-like. The twin boys across the street (they were 3 or 4 years old at the time) saw me working me with the loppers and kept asking what I was doing. I just smiled and waved since I didn't know what I was doing, which soon became apparent since the seedling just ended up looking stranger than before. Bob Ross was right. I keep hoping that it will grow and then finally the branches will dip back toward the ground.

I guess I should explain those trash cans. Although I live in the country, I also live at the end of a small subdivision. The trash cans belong to the neighbor, who used to burn trash in them. I don't have many pictures of the other houses because our main view of the neighborhood is what we see after the round the big stand of tulip poplars as we head down the driveway. It's a nice neighborhood. It used to look a little bare but many of the trees are really sizing up now they are 15+ years old. Most of our property is bordered on the east by the neighbor's pastures and fields and to the west by woods.

The cool raspberry seedling is very shrubby and used to be rather spindly at the same time. It has filled in and looks more robust now. Occasionally I think of asking G. to cut down the seedlings, and that if I keep mowing them down with the tractor perhaps they will give up? Perhaps as they mature they will look better. Toward this end they get mulched with hay the horses won't eat.

There are lots of crooked trees around here.

Our two little dwarf apple trees (one died this summer, RIP) have always been very crooked, although they ended up looking quite picturesque and full of character after the course of several growing seasons. Dwarf rootstock tends to be weak and the winds from Hurricane Floyd blew them sideways.

The sweetgum on the left and apricot maple to the right both lean to the north.

The crooked tree to the right used to be in the middle of the woods before a path was cleared to the house. I think eventually the wood's edge will lose its raw spindly look, but it's going to take time.

Check out this crooked tree! We took a day trip to Chapel Hill today since the weather was so cold and windy, I didn't feel like working the horses or in the garden. It's an oak tree at the NC Botanical Garden that was pushed over by the high winds of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and yet lives.

More on Chapel Hill later; despite the windy days recently, there was quite a bit of fall color left, more than I expected!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall Colors

Red maples can be spectacular in the fall. Their colors range in from glowing golden yellow to purest red, with most here on the farm changing first to yellow and then orange and ending with red highlights. I see some young pure red ones around here, but no large ones (although I've seen pure red fall color on mature wild red maples elsewhere), so I have to wonder if those are not as vigorous as the others. At their best red maples are just about as spectacular as the famed sugar maple. They are enthusiastic pioneer trees that seed everywhere and grow like weeds. The wild trees are sensitive to moisture levels when it comes to fall color though, and in dry year they can be blah. In a year with good rain like this year they are BEAUTIFUL. I love them with the caveat that the seeds, bark and wilted and fallen leaves of red maples are poisonous to horses. If a horse consumes more than a pound of wilted or dried leaves, a toxin reaches levels that result in the death of red blood cells. The toxin remains in the leaves for a month after falling from the tree. Now a pound is a lot of red maples leaves, and with good grass a horse won't eat them; however, if a pasture is surrounded by red maples and the pasture is coated with the leaves, a horse may still end up consuming quite a few. I don't want to take that chance so the red maples were removed from around the pastures many years ago. We still have lots of red maples though, as the majority of our land remains woods.

Red Maples with a young Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana), bottom left

Ironwood has great fall color. It grows everywhere on the farm as an understory tree.

A red maple turning apricot, a week ago.

These golden Red Maples were along a path that runs along a property line we hadn't walked in a while.

I was surprised to see Sorrel Trees all along the path. Somehow I had missed them before, and what were they doing down here? See the pale pink trees in the distance? Those are Sorrel Trees. The ones in deep shade turned a ghostly cream/yellow/pink.

This one standing in a sunbeam turned a beautiful scarlet with perfect leaves, unlike the spotted ones near the house.

The sweet pepperbush in shade likewise turned a pale, almost transparent yellow.

Sweet Pepperbush turns gold with more sun. These are west of the old house site. All of it wild. Once the leaves turn gold they don't last that long, with the leaves either freezing or blowing off, but the show is impressive while it lasts.

On the banks of the ditch behind the big perennial bed.

I have been drooling over roadside Sassafras in full sun that are gorgeous shades of orange and red. We have one wild good-sized Sassafras and one only, and it's in the shade, but its butterscotch-colored leaves always catch the eye in the fall.

Poison ivy may be annoying and even downright evil, but it does have nice color often ending up deep burnished shades of red and burgundy in sun and shimmering gold in the shade.

The young Shining Sumacs outdid themselves this year. I have a baby Smooth Sumac that I grew from seed and I'm trying to figure out where to plant it, as it likes drier soils and it needs to be in a place where I won't mind it suckering.

Most of our big trees are Red Maples, Sweetgums, and Loblolly Pines, with the occasional Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica) which always stands out. The leaves look like they've been painted with a shiny dark red lacquer.
One year the bright fire engine red leaves of the Swamp Tupelos (Nyssa aquatica) drew me down to the slough near the creek. I'm not sure that they color every year but when they do they are like a flame. They are big trees that grow right in the water and have larger leaves than Blackgums.

I don't recall our hickories having fall color before, although they probably did after Floyd in 1999. Everything had unbelievable color that year. This year they turned a lovely gold. I am not sure which species they are or if the two below are the same species.

The leaves of this tree look like the drawing of White Hickory in Dirr's Manual.

Hickories and Hubricht's Amsonia would make a great combination, although they don't grow together in my garden. It took a while for this plant to put on a show in the fall, but it surely does now. As I wrote in an earlier post I didn't use to love Amsonia. In the past few years I have been converted and see the light. What's not to love? Vanilla-scented pale blue flowers in the spring, soft willowy foliage in the summer (there is no better foliage plant), and bright yellow to copper color in the fall. No pests and very tough. Deer don't even like it.

I've grown several Hubricht's/Willowleaf hybrids from seed (they grow next to each other in the big bed) and they color up some but not as much as Hubricht's.

A couple of non-natives really strut their stuff in the garden too. This is Willow leaf Spicebush (Lindera salicifolia), grown from seed. I like the pumpkin orange color.

My witch hazel may hang onto its leaves until after the flowers are done, but look at the fall color! I couldn't have hoped for better.

Seedling of 'Jelena', Hamamelis x intermedia

Half of the Mockorange turned bright yellow.

and the Japanese Flowering Apricot (Prunus mume) was the best shade of apricot (appropriately) ever.

Even though the recent freezes and windy days have stripped most of the leaves ~ even from the sweetgums, which would normally be at their peak now ~ we will have some fall color for a few more weeks. There are still some red maples in the woods that were protected and a few others seem to be genetically hard wired to turn late and are still very colorful, and the Swamp Cyrilla and blueberries are usually very colorful into December. The species roses (R. rugosa, carolina, virginiana, setigera and arkansana -- also turn very late.

Wild blueberry beside the driveway

I'm going to put these blueberries into the big perennial bed this winter or early Spring, after the birds are done with the Bidens. I rooted these three years ago from a blueberry in the woods behind one of the paddocks. G. spotted the parent blueberry one year in the fall when he was on the tractor, easy to do as you can imagine! Getting these plants going have taken a very long time but will be worth it in the end.

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