Observations in mid-November

The maples and poplars in the forest that borders the garden are nearly bare, and with overnight temperatures below freezing the remaining vestiges of late summer blooms have faded. Leaves of smaller trees, Japanese maples, Franklinia, and Stewartia have not dropped yet, and though the colors in the forest trees have been muted the small trees are as extravagantly colored as in any year.

Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, autumn foliage above) is highly regarded for its white, camellia-like blooms in early summer and for exfoliating bark, but its variable autumn foliage colors are quite extraordinary, ranging from yellow to almost purple. I cannot adequately describe the color this November, which is quite unlike the hue from previous years, but the tree glows in the evening sunlight. Stewartia is slow to establish after transplanting, and might require several years to see a noticeable increase in size, but then will grow at a quickened pace. When the tree was in bloom this year the branches were bent from the weight of the numerous flower buds.

There are more than a dozen cultivars of Japanese maple in the garden, and some have displayed their autumn coloration for weeks already, but the Coral Bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, above) has just turned in the past few days. The yellow leaves are particularly lustrous this autumn, though this small upright growing maple is most renowned for its fiery, red branches that are most evident after the foliage drops. Through the spring and summer Coral Bark maple is unremarkable, with relatively drab light green leaves covering the red bark, but it begins to shine in November.

The late autumn blooming camellias are in bloom now, with ‘Winter Star’ (above) the most recent to open its buds. Numerous buds ensure blooms over the next several weeks, though there will be only a few handfuls at any time. 

The reblooming azaleas and hydrangeas have many buds that will not bloom this autumn, and both had many blooms that were injured by the sub-freezing temperatures. The blooms of the Knockout roses (above) were also damaged, but the remaining buds will continue to open so long as daytime temperatures are moderate. 

The flower buds of rhododendron, pieris, and Japanese camellias are evident, but tucked tightly to protect them through the winter. The buds of the late winter blooming Edgeworthia (above and below) display the beginnings of the multiple tube-like flowers, and as the season progresses the buds will continue to expand and become more defined. In February I will watch their progress every few days, eagerly awaiting the blooms late in the month.  

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