Autumn is most noted for foliage that turns to marvelous reds and yellows before falling to carpet the ground. In this garden at the forest’s edge, perennials and small shrubs (as well as garden tools) can be lost forever (or just for months) if deep piles of leaves are left for long. So, a few hours here and there are spent every week or two over the next several months to keep the garden relatively cleared of major accumulations. Most leaves are shredded in place, so that the physical labor is not too strenuous, it’s just that there’s a lot of ground to cover and a seemingly endless supply of leaves.
Besides the leaves from the forest and the dozens of trees I’ve planted, my concern is the sycamores from several neighboring properties. I’m quite certain that every one of the huge, leathery leaves blows onto my property, where they are ensnared by shrubs and trees in the garden. The sycamores’ leaves are scattered about the garden, and they are five times the trouble as they regularly clog the leaf vacuum, though there are only a handful of trees compared to many dozens of maples and tulip poplars. I’ve threatened my neighbors that unless they come to rake their sycamore leaves out of my garden I might be motivated to put my chainsaw to good use, but they suspect I’m only joking.
But, not to complain. The leaves (even the sycamores’) make excellent mulch, whether they’re shredded or not, and even if they’re not composted. Today, the thin clay soil and dry shade on the southern border of the property is not so thin or dry any longer as leaves have been spread about for twenty-five years. In some spots, I can actually dig a hole between roots, and here the Oakleaf hydrangeas, aucubas, hellebores, and assorted woodland perennials and shrubs seem quite content.
In fact, the sycamore leaves are not nearly the largest leaves now carpeting the garden. The leaves of the Bigleaf magnolia are several times larger so that I don’t even consider picking them up through the leaf vacuum. In the sizable area beneath the Bigleaf and neighboring Cucumber magnolia I don’t bother with the leaves at all, but the huge leaves from both are not resented since I planted them, and these have many more redeeming qualities to my thinking than the monstrous sycamores.