The cool nights of mid October


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.

Toad lily
The gardener expects flowers to survive a mild frost, but often the first frost blackens foliage and flowers turn limp and lifeless.

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.

Bumblebee on Blue Mist shrub
A sluggish bumblebee on the Blue Mist shrub. Days ago there were dozens of bees, but after a few chilly nights, today only a few.

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.

The last remaining flowers of Gordlinia, that has flowered since early August.
The last remaining flowers of Gordlinia, that has flowered since early August.
Summer Ice and Eternal Fragrance daphnes flower through early frosts.
Summer Ice and Eternal Fragrance daphnes flower through early frosts.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Lynn says:

    I agree! The ac was on a little more than a week ago, and now I need the HEAT! Did cover my basil last night, as I haven’t even thought about bringing it in the house, but now I must
    Lynn, a faithful follower

    1. Dave says:

      I do not look forward to hauling the pots of tropicals into the basement for the winter, but now I must watch nighttime temperatures closely.

  2. Bill P says:

    My HUGE Hershey Red Azalea is in dire need
    of serious pruning. Neglected it last year and
    It was flattened by snow. Realize I should have
    Tackled this right after it bloomed but is it now
    Too late to protect it from yet another bout with
    a winter snowstorm which we all know is coming,

  3. Angela Lee says:

    Dave, Spring and Fall are my favorite times of the year, but, alas, we have to go through winter and summer to experience those two seasons. Yesterday I had to have 5 very large mature white oaks taken down because of damage to the root system from construction vehicles. Virginia Tech and cooperative extension have recommended Tulip poplars as their replacement. What is your experience with them? I noticed that you mentioned having one. I have never grown one.
    Yesterday was a very sad day as you can imagine!
    The English gardener.

    1. Dave says:

      While native and fast growing, I find the Tulip poplar in my neighboring forest unremarkable except for flowers that are far too high in the canopy to be seen. Autumn foliage color is yellow, and not distinctive. I would opt for any oak, or blackgum.

      1. Ang Lee English gardener says:

        Dave thanks for your prompt reply, I appreciate the suggestion. The other recommendation was a weeping Oak, and I don’t think I have ever seen one. You probably have one in your garden don’t you? I’m anxious to get something in the ground as fall is really the best time of the year to plant and the removal of the trees has left my front yard, with all my Japanese maples,exposed .
        Are you fully recovered from your recent surgery?
        The English Gardner

      2. Dave says:

        I have several weeping trees that barely have ornamental value; weeping katsura, hornbeam, and dogwood, but not oak. I don’t think I’ve seen a weeping oak, but other than Japanese maples it seems hard to substantiate weepers that don’t flower. Over the weekend I rearranged a few things to plant a weeping ‘Magic Fountain’ persimmon. I don’t have space for the pollinating male, so I’ll probably never see a fruit, but it sounds interesting. I’ll find out how ornamental the flowers are.

      3. Ang Lee says:

        Thank you for your prompt reply. Much appreciated. A Willow Oak was the other suggestion so I will have to seek that one out.
        The English gardener

  4. Barbara H. says:

    The larger print format that I am seeing now on your blog is much easier to read! Old and getting older by the day eyes appreciate it.

    1. Dave says:

      I haven’t purposely changed anything, but who can figure these things. I rarely describe colors, because in addition to being old and half blind, I’m also color blind. I’m certain there are photos I’ve taken where readers wonder how I could possibly match one color with another.

  5. Deborah says:

    I love your Ramblings Dave! I have to get me some Toad Lillies. I almost bought some at the Lewis Ginter Fall sale but Iris’s and Day Lillie’s took up all my money for that day!

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