With gusty breezes a few days ago the Japanese maples suddenly shed their leaves, and now only flowering pears (Pyrus calleryana, below) in the neighborhood, and Chinese and Rutgers’ hybrid dogwoods in the garden have not dropped their colorful foliage. The autumn foliage of the pears is extraordinary, with leaves that color by mid October and hold onto the trees long after others are bare.
Unfortunately, the pears are somewhat problematic, too often suffering severe breakage in summer storms and seeding themselves about in open fields and along fence rows. A mile from my home, hundreds of seedlings have sprouted along a fence where black Angus graze. In mid November the fiery red and yellow foliage is quite magnificent, but reminds how easily this tree escapes from the garden. The tasty fruit is favored by birds, who then deposit the seed far and wide. Other trees are not as vigorous in establishing themselves in poor, dry soils, but the pears are obviously very successful.
The native dogwoods (Cornus florida) shed their foliage weeks ago, but the Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa, above) do not begin to show any color until late in October, and their peak is in early November. With a handful of cultivars in the garden, no two display identical autumn foliage. Two Chinese dogwoods with green and white variegated foliage (‘Samaritan’ and ‘Wolf Eyes’) fade to a drab tan in late October, and look rather sad until the leaves fall, but others are quite eye catching.
The leaves of the pink flowered ‘Satomi’ Chinese dogwood (above) are more rounded, and glossier through the spring and summer than other dogwoods. In November the foliage is wonderfully mottled with red and yellow. ‘Satomi’ grows nearly as wide as it is tall, and in most years its blooms display only a hint of pink in my Virginia garden in late May. In the cooler temperatures of Oregon I’ve seen ‘Satomi’ bloom pink more dependably in mid June .
The fast growing, white flowered ‘Galilean’ (above) has an upright form, and it colors later than other Chinese dogwoods. A few weeks ago I figured that it was too late, there would be no color this year, but here it is, and the glowing, soft yellow is very much worth the wait.
For years after planting hybrid dogwoods introduced by Rutgers University I didn’t recognize their autumn foliage as being anything special, but in recent years ‘Stellar Pink’ (above) has been splendid. I planted ‘Venus’ a year ago, and its foliage began to turn late in September. ‘Stellar Pink’ started much later, but no tree has been more beautiful this season.