Big leaves

Falling leaves of the Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) are a significant event in the garden. Immediately, a widespread area of ferns, hostas, and a young patch of Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) are buried beneath a deep cover of the huge leaves, which will remain in place until decay begins in early spring. Other leaves are gathered, shredded, and spread through shaded areas of the garden, but the huge leaves of the magnolia clog the shredder, so there is little choice but to leave them in place. Some folks might rake them into a pile, to bag or burn them, I suppose, but those folks would be much more energetic than I am, and this seems such a waste to haul away such a valued resource.

The large leaves of Bigleaf magnolia will decay by early spring, but through the winter they remain in piles beneath the tree.

Piles of leaves do no harm, or at least none that is obvious, to the perennials buried beneath, though at some point in winter hellebores are cleared of leaves so that flowers can be viewed. While the magnolia leaves have a stiff composition when they first fall, by early spring they are quite brittle, so they decay sooner than maple and tulip poplar, and particularly sycamore leaves that blow in from neighbors’ trees.

Leaves of Bigleaf magnolia can reach two feet in length

Autumn foliage coloring of Bigleaf magnolia is an unremarkable yellow, far less notable than the buttery yellow of the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, below). While leaves of ginkgo turn to yellow, then fall in a rush that seldom lasts more than a day. the leaves of the magnolia are slow to drop, falling over weeks.

This damp and mild early autumn has subdued typical coloring of leaves in the area, but still there is some changing of foliage in the garden. Besides the dependable ginkgo, which shows signs that its leaf drop day is imminent, there is splendid color on fothergillas and several witch hazels, though the often excellent Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) dropped every leaf without a trace of color change.

Coloring of leaves of fothergillas varies from brilliant in parts sun to green in shadier spots.
Leaves of Arnold Promise witch hazel vary in color from red to orange on the same shrub.

The Golden Full Moon Japanese maple is often brilliant in October, but color change is unremarkable in late October. Fernleaf (Acer japonicum ‘ Aconitifolium’), the best coloring of Japanese maples in this garden, is typically slow to turn, and along with a few other maples leaves hang on weeks into November. Leaves are beginning to change, with indications (and expectations) of a typical display of color.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ruth says:

    Thank you Dave. I love the descriptions, and the pictures are just beautiful. I can imagine your beautiful garden as fall approaches! Wonderful as always! 😀

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Because our winters are so mild, and many plants are active through much of winter, we need to rake leaves. Too many fallen leaves can actually kill small plants and grass! We leave it in ivy of course. It just sifts on through. Not much slows down ivy.

    1. Dave says:

      I give the lawn so little attention that it is horrible, and getting worse. Leaves from our small neighborhood are trapped by the edges of the garden, so some of the deepest piles are shredded in late December, or late winter. I am unlikely to get out much in the coldest parts of winter.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        That is my kind of lawn!

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