Mildly disappointing

The garden does not always go as planned. Each year there will be disappointments, or worse. One thing or another will fail to flower, or to survive, and in this one acre garden there are likely to be more than a few things that don’t go as expected. There’s always next year.

St. John's wort
St. John’s wort flowering in late October

Despite a late summer of severe heat and drought, the garden came through without too many troubles. Through early autumn, there are more pleasant than disappointing surprises. Certainly, there are more brown leaves than usual, and a few hostas in a bit too much sun have suffered, but these are temporary bothers. All will be fine by spring.

Autumn Amethyst begins flowering in early November. In a mild December with few severe freezes there might be flowers into mid month.
Autumn Amethyst begins flowering in early November. In a mild December with few severe freezes there might be flowers into mid month.

In fact, the autumn flowering of Encore azaleas has been better than the average, with several still blooming in early November, and ‘Autumn Amethyst’ just beginning to flower. Most unusual of the Encores, this is about average for ‘Amethyst’ that will often display scattered flowers through frosts and minor freezes in November and occasionally long into December if temperatures don’t drop too cold.Encore azalea

The first of the autumn flowering camellias (Camellia x ‘Winter’s Star’, below) has just begun to bloom, and the others could start at any moment. Slight degrees of sun exposure make flowering of camellias within several feet of each other a mystery to predict, so while one ‘Winter’s Star’ flowers today, others might not until mid December.Winter's Star camellia

If there’s been a recent predicament worthy of mention, it’s the lack of autumn foliage color. There’s some, but not much so far, and of course November is a bit late to get started. The typically colorful leaves of the Fernleaf Japanese maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’, below) have just begun to turn, but they’re also mottled with brown. The Golden Full Moon maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’), that is occasionally splendid, but consistently excellent in October, dropped all leaves with hardly a change. This is disappointing, but it’s not like anything is keeling over dead.Fernleaf maple in late October

Besides the Fernleaf maple, the most dependable trees in the garden for autumn foliage color are the native dogwoods (Cornus florida), in particular one along the front walk. It’s substantial crop of red berries ripened, then were gone in a day as cardinals discovered them, and only now am I starting to see a slight change in leaf color. The change to crimson leaves usually begins by late September, but this year, the dogwoods are mostly green the first week of November. Probably, next year will be better, but with only a light frost so far there are plenty of flowers in the garden, so there will be no complaints from me.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Barbara H. says:

    I’m in NE Alabama and was afraid all our leaves would just turn brown and drop because of the drought. The surprise here is how much color is out there – it’s been better than usual and we are in extreme drought conditions with highs this week in the mid to upper 80s. Then it will cool down but no rain in sight yet.

    1. Dave says:

      Though parts of the mid Atlantic received significant rain as remnants of hurricanes and tropical storms passed through, large areas have had less than two inches of rain in the past three months. Cool temperatures fool the gardener into thinking the ground is moist, and while there is no immediate danger to plants, substantial rainfall is needed before freezing temperatures move in.

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