Last in leaf

A day after admiring the autumn foliage coloring of the ‘Okushimo’ Japanese maple, a downpour stripped every leaf. Other maples, redbuds, and dogwoods have been bare for weeks, all but the Korean Sweetheart tree (Euscaphis japonica, below). It’s fully leafed and green, which is a more than a bit unusual this first week of December. I’m not worried, certainly the tree will figure its journey into dormancy without my help, but I am puzzled.

A year ago, the young tree was in a pot, moved into the greenhouse for winter protection, so I have no experience to know when its leaves turn and drop. No doubt, this must happen soon. Temperatures have fallen into the twenties (Fahrenheit) several times. I look forward to purplish autumn coloring, but suspect there will be none this year.

Years ago I was introduced to a grower in the mountains of North Carolina offering larger Sweetheart trees, in late summer sporting its dangling red fruits. I regret I couldn’t put together an order, but I’ve lusted after the tree ever since, and while with my lack of patience I am most reluctant to purchase tiny trees, I couldn’t resist when I saw this available by mail order.

This year, I’ve been particularly pleased with its rapid growth from a skinny eighteen inches tall to a bushy four feet. At the start of the growing season it was lost behind a vigorous clump of terrestrial orchids, but now it stands well above its neighbors. I look forward to its continued growth next year, and perhaps it will be well established enough that I’ll see its first flowers. I am trying to convince myself that there is no problem with its remaining green so late into the season, and likely there is not. In any case, there is nothing I can do but hope for the best.

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