Foliage in late November

While eating breakfast this morning, my wife and I observed a red-tailed hawk perched on the tree lilac (Syringa reticulata), only a few feet from our kitchen window. This low branch is not an ordinary perch for hawks that are ever present soaring high above the garden, though with most trees bare in late November the view was unimpeded into the back garden. After several patient minutes, the splendid bird floated off, most likely to a higher vantage point.

Okushimo Japanese maple has an upright habit, and green leaves that curl upwards. It is densely branched, but unexceptional compared to other maples until autumn.

Okushimo Japanese maple has an upright habit, and green leaves that curl upwards. It is densely branched, but unexceptional compared to other maples until autumn.

Just beyond the bare lilac is the lone Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Okushimo’, above) holding leaves at this late date. Several Japanese maples delay their autumn foliage colors, but despite the brilliant late coloring of many trees, ‘Scolopendrifolium’ and Lion’s Head maples (Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’) were unremarkable in recent weeks before leaves fell. Today, I was overjoyed, but somewhat surprised to see ‘Okushimo’ in full autumn color.

Oakleaf hydrangeas exhibit excellent autumn foliage color, with leaves that persist into December and occasionally into early January.

Oakleaf hydrangeas exhibit excellent autumn foliage color, with leaves that persist into December and occasionally into early January.

There is no surprise to see Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia, above) in full leaf and color in late November, and often burgundy foliage persists long into December despite many nights below freezing. The yellow leafed ‘Little Honey’ (below) looks rather sad by comparison, and is worthy of inclusion in the garden only as a novelty since it flowers only sporadically.

Little Honey has large, soft yellow leaves, but it flowers sporadically. In late November the foliage persists, with the yellow in stark contrast to the burgundy foliage of other Oakleafs.

Little Honey has large, soft yellow leaves, but it flowers sporadically. In late November the foliage persists, with the yellow in stark contrast to the burgundy foliage of other Oakleafs.

I admit to being skeptical of the ornamental qualities of edible plants, though there is every reason to include them in a garden. Years ago, I grew blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum, below) to grab a handful of warm berries as I roamed the garden in July, but in recent years the berries are mostly left for the birds. I’ve rarely ventured while touring the garden to see the autumn foliage colors of the open branched shrubs, but with most trees and shrubs bare in late November, I cannot help but notice.

Branching of blueberries is open, but autumn foliage color is exceptional. Still, I grow it to feed the birds.

Branching of blueberries is open, but autumn foliage color is exceptional. I grow blueberries to feed the birds.

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