Every year, some or multiple events in the garden are deemed odd by the gardener, though these are rarely unusual. Yes, he thinks, we’ve been through droughts (floods, heat, or cold), but never like this one, which is almost certainly nonsense. Few gardeners would argue that our recent late summer drought and delayed coloring of autumn foliage are unusual. Perhaps this occurs less frequently than they expect, maybe every few years, but clearly the word has spread to local leaf watchers.

I have noted autumn foliage color of Bottlebrush buckeye before, but never have I noticed it as brightly colored as today. This color will be an exception in this year following an extended drought when many leaves have yellowed and dropped early.
The Fernleaf Japanese maple dependably displays mottled colors from red to yellow beginning in late October when many other leaves are falling.

In this garden without irrigation, most autumn foliage colors are tardy, a result of drought and summer temperatures that left town only a few weeks ago. A large dogwood in the front garden has not fully turned, and most years it’s showing color by late September. Just beginning to turn, the Fernleaf Japanese maple (Acer japonicum ‘Acontifolium’, above) is often the highlight of autumn leaves, but I’ve also noted the particularly glowing foliage of Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora, above).

Berries of Nandina domestica are very dependable, and since they are toxic the berries often persist through the winter. This is the reason that nandina is rarely found seeding far from the parent plant, though it is often included in lists of invasive plants. I have never experienced problems with nandinas spreading, and have never seen a seedling in a forest or open area.

There are plentiful berries, as usual, and these are more consistent by far than flowering or foliage colors. On very rare occasion, a late freeze in April can discourage the pollination of hollies by bees, who would rather stay indoors for the day (or week). Leaf coloring is effected by recent weather, and no, there is not a thing out of the ordinary this year.

‘Dixie Star’ holly was planted long ago as a test. This holly was abandoned in the nursery trade because it was unexceptional, but mine struggles along beneath a wide spreading Jane magnolia. Until recent years, it had very sparse berries, but now it is more dependable. Of course, I can’t explain why.