November 04, 2010

Past peak

After a busy work day, I walked around the corner of the house and saw this:

A Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) with oblique light filtering through it is one of the most amazing sites in any autumn garden. The colors are breathtaking! Most of the annuals are dead or dying, and the perennials are going dormant. Deciduous leaves are fading from their peak.

But this year, like every year, there’s a transition time—from early October through mid-November—between colorful, mild autumn and blustery, snowy winter when nature throws us colorful surprises. The burnt rust red of the lingering Oak leaves and the variegated shifting colors of the Hydrangea macrophylla take my breath away.

Before the truly bitter winter weather sets in:
  • Take a walk around your yard or at the park. Focus on the surprises: Notice the lingering Lamium (Lamium maculatum) stubbornly hanging on in a crack between the blacktop driveway and the lawn, or the heirloom Rose bush with maturing rose hips.
  • Notice how some plants seem to burst alive when the temperatures plummet. Mums (Chrysanthemum) that wilted in warmer weather perk up with brilliant bright tints during crisp, cool days. Note how the hues of Ornamental Cabbage and Kale (Brassica oleracea) intensify after the first hard frosts.
  • Gaze out a picture window and take an informal inventory of the scene. Chances are, you’ll see a colorful plant or two still surviving that you didn’t expect.
  • Move in close to a vibrant plant. Notice the richness of the color and the blending of various hues. It’s easy to see how our ancestors found colors for cloth dye.
  • Brave the chill at daybreak or near dusk. Oblique light can cast especially dramatic tints on plants and flowers.
Don’t miss out on the bounty! Take in the chromatic show before winter sets in. Even past the peak of autumn leaves’ last hurrah, nature still surprises us with dramatic flushes of color.

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