Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Golden Leaves

Golden leaves from mid-November...

The apricot maple looking gold in the late afternoon sun.

A seedling of the apricot maple.

Young red maples and sweetgums provide a colorful carpet in some places -- in the big ditch and on the bank next to the neighbor's fence -- although of course they have to be cut back over and over again or we'd be overrun with trees. The sweetgum is the Joseph's coat of trees, even more so than the red maple. Some of the leaves turn yellow and then orange and then red and purple over time, whilst some leaves on the same tree go straight to purple, sometimes so dark it's almost black.

I need to get more Sweet Betsys. I have a couple Calycanthus raulstonii (Calycanthus florida x Sinocalycanthus chinensis) that I like, although not as much as the native. G. says they are fragrant but all I get is the smell of warm toast rather than Juicy Fruit gum. There is one native next to the ditch near the old house site and I miss its fragrance since I don't spend as much time down there as I used to. Michael Dirr writes that you should always buy a Sweet Betsy in flower to verify that it is truly sweetly fragrant (some seedlings will just smell like vinegar), but when I saw them for sale at the NC Botanical Garden I just did a scratch and sniff on the stem. It was very aromatic so I took a chance and bought it. Besides, its parents were likely one of a couple of large and wonderfully fragrant Sweet Betsys in their display gardens around the Totten Center. Probably seed parent since Sweet Betsys are notoriously difficult to grow from cuttings, or perhaps a sucker. Oh, and if you ever see an 'Athens' for sale, do yourself a favor and get one. There's one next to the education center and it smells delicious.

The fall color of the hybrid is a vivid old gold, but the native's gold color looks shiny and new.

The rugosas' leaves were just turning when they were frozen.

In November the sun always lights up the neighbor's trees in a dramatic fashion. The ridge where those trees are is the last thing the sun hits before it sets in late fall. The sun had just broken through the clouds briefly before sinking below the horizon.

There were several firsts this year.

The mockorange managed to shine very bright after all. I don't recall the leaves having this much color before.

I don't remember the apple tree leaves ever having much color. Perhaps turning a little yellowish before falling, but never as yellow as this.

I didn't remember seeing this male Ilex decidua before. It grows beneath a white oak behind one of our pastures. In fact, I don't ever recall seeing a holly possamhaw with any fall color but can't think what else this could be. Not show stopping exactly but had a very elegant tiered appearance and glowed so warmly in the sun.

Laurrie wrote about the sun pouring liquid gold over her sweetbay magnolia on November mornings, and I responded that I only remembered our sweetbays going straight to rich brown before finally dropping early the following year. Well this year it happened! The sweetbays turned gold. They did turn a little bit gold in 2013 but nothing like this.

Most of the sweetbays on the farm are little spriglings that are trying to duke it out with the rest of the trees in the woods and not looking too successful doing it. We have two out in the open: a wild one in between the two pastures that have kept cleared around, and about a hundred feet away I planted this one I bought from Pender Nursery in 2000. This one has been growing sloooowly but it's very nice. The only difference between the two trees is that one loses its leaves before the other. In future years I will keep an eye out to see if this alchemy occurs again.


  1. So beautiful ... I started my day between your golden leaves. Thank you !

  2. Golden autumn! Nice leaves, meadows, bushes, sweetbay magnolia is well shaped.
    Happy week!

  3. How wonderful that your sweetbay magnolias turned golden! This must have been the year for it all over. I love how elegant and small yours by the fence is. It's growing slowly but very shapely. I have two next to the house and one is growing rapidly right outside my window, the other around the corner is progressing much slower, and its leaves are sparser. I think sweetbays must be highly variable!

  4. I love the form of the sweetbay magnolia and the trees against that dark sky is pretty.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and looking at all your beautiful photographs.


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