Mounds of brown leaves of the purple leafed European beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’) cover the stone path, an early and mostly unwelcome sign that autumn has arrived and frost is near. Recent rainfall has ended the late summer drought, and after weeks of ninety degree temperatures, I can hardly complain about the cool and breezy days of early autumn. While frost is not unusual by mid October, the gardener is in no rush to see the season end. There will be flowers in this garden through the winter, but still it is disappointing to awaken one morning to blackened foliage from a frost or freeze.
While red berries are abundant on hollies and native dogwoods, leaves are just beginning to show autumn coloring. Of course, after an extended summer it seems too early for cold, but temperatures dropped into the thirties last night, and it cannot be long before the flowering season of toad lilies (Tricyrtis, above) is ended. On a cool and sunny afternoon, few bees are seen on Blue Mist shrubs (Caryopteris, below) or Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), and the few are sluggish as their time runs short.
Soon, leaves of maples and tulip poplars will fall to cover the garden that borders the forest, with leaves of the Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) and neighbors’ sycamores too large, clogging the vacuum that shreds leaves that are spread through the garden. That can wait. Until frost, the gardener must enjoy these last days (hopefully weeks) of flowers.