October 11, 2011

Why So Tentative?

It's Columbus Day.  Where are the colors?
It feels like spring here in my part of the world, even though I am in the northern hemisphere and it is mid October.

It feels that way because I am waiting, waiting, for something to happen, just the way I anxiously monitor emerging shoots and tiny leaves in early spring.

I am waiting for fall to emerge.

Autumn here is not an ending, it's the start of a glorious season in my garden.  But this year it is tentative and halting. 

Garden club speculation lays the blame on our very wet September and early October.  Too much rain has delayed the fall color.

I do have proof.  I keep another blog which is unpublished.  It is a private daily journal of the tasks and minutiae that occupy me outside.  And it gives me a photographic record year by year, dated and preserved.

Last year we had fall color by Columbus Day.  It peaked in late October, but it exploded around this time and then deepened as the month ended.  This year, compared to prior years, it is tentative and developing slowly.

A tiny new whip of a black gum tree is the only color out in the woods. None of the more mature black gums have started to put on their red dresses yet. 

The little forest of growing maples on the back hill is just thinking about coloring.  Very softly tinged right now, it is slowly turning.  It should be ablaze.

The Virginia sweetspire shrub, itea, has begun to turn a deep color, and it is kind of nice, but last year it was a shocking garnet red that shimmered.

The only real red color on the back hill comes from staghorn sumacs.  The line of shaggy buckeyes, aesculus parviflora, are only starting to turn gold in front of the browning meadow.  They should be bright neon yellow all over at this time.  The doublefile viburnum on the right here has been half green and half rusty red now for a week.  Get your act together!

A brand new pagoda dogwood, cornus alternifolia, looks like Raggedy Ann.  It hasn't grown into its elegant shape yet.  At all.  But it is one of the few spots of color right now.

The hillside is nice, but not what it has been in prior years.

My sourwood, oxydendrum arboreum, was deep crimson last year on October 12, and I have pictures from prior years that show it was a beautiful color even in late September.  This year it is still green.

The 'Sheffield Pink' mums want to bloom, but they are still just a sea of buds with only a few brave flowers.

All will be right by the end of October when the colors emerge in their glory.  But why so tentative?  Why so delayed?  Just to drive me crazy this year?


  1. Laurrie, Fall does seem to be taking it's time. Here in southwestern CT we're not expecting much color this fall, partly because of all the damage to foliage from TS Irene. That, combined with the drought in July and rains in August/September and it's a wonder there's any color anywhere.

  2. Maples are just starting to turn in south-central CT but I, too, have wondered when trees will begin to turn in earnest. Similar to Debbie, I don't expect knock-out color this year. The salt-laden rains of Irene damaged too many leaves.

  3. I'm sure you'll see your plants turn colour soon enough. Everything seems a bit behind this year in our area. Spring was quite late and our apple trees are ripening a couples weeks later than last year. The birches have all turned colour but the hardwoods are still green so we've a ways to go yet.

  4. Can you believe that we had summer weather (shorts and t-shirts) this past weekend! And this is Canada we are talking about for pete's sake! Fall definitely seems delayed here as well. We do have beautiful oranges, red and yellows appearing in the trees though. I am sure that fall colors will appear in your garden any day now.
    P.S. How lucky you were to hear Margret Roach. I must follow your link back to her blog.

  5. We are having atypical weather as well. Very warm and the trees are just starting to color, later than normal too. But like your area, our sumacs are putting on the show.

  6. Thanks, all, for your comments. Your reports from Connecticut, western New York and various parts of Canada tell me that fall color is delayed all over this year!

  7. Our fall color, too is very, very late here in Western New York (Rochester area). We didn’t have a particularly wet fall but we have had several weeks of rare, gloriously warm weather — shorts and t-shirts, as Jennifer mentioned. My moonflowers and mina lobata vines (planted for the hummers but far too late to feed them) are just now coming into full bloom. Ordinarily the frost would have killed them by now. The trees behind our house are bypassing the color change entirely and just shedding leaves. I hope that won’t be the case for all of our our beautiful foliage — it’s one of the few consolations for the long, grey winters here. No frost predicted for at least another week, though that could change.

    Your idea of the blog garden journal is great! That’s one of the advantages of blogging and digital cameras — they’re dated!

  8. It is warm here, too, Laurrie! Our colors have started to pop, though. The east coast had some crazy weather, perhaps that has something to do with it??
    I am sure soon enough you will be enjoying your glorious colors!

  9. Fall color never really shows up here until late November. I always look forward to experiencing the color change through my following of blogs around the world. This year our color unfortunately showed up much too early. The Spanish oaks and cedar elms leaves have turned to yellowish brown and are falling off. If you didn't know any better you'd think we are having a glorious fall. Looking forward to seeing yours.

  10. Oh, btw, the mums are yummy and I'd like to spend a few minutes with them with my camera! That is a really interesting shot!

  11. This has been the warmest October in years for us, and I'm loving it! We have had lots of fall color, especially this past week, but then we've had very little rain the last two months. Your color show may be late, but it looks like everything is about to put on its autumn finery. While some of us will soon be gazing at bare tree branches at home, you'll be enjoying the fall beauty.

  12. My local tree warden (in Fairfield County) pointed out to me that the extremely wet season has resulted in anthracnose and other fungi on the leaves of many trees--certainly the maples, oaks, sycamores and dogwoods. This will definitely dim this year's foliage.

  13. Laurrie, it *is* strange, this reluctant autumn. At the rate color is creeping to my garden, trees will be bare before they're ablaze with autumn's magical colors.

    The only exceptions: Japanese maples; fortunately, they didn't get the word about boycotting fall.

  14. Thanks to all the additional commenters --- all delayed for fall color in so many parts of our northern world.

    Cat, I would hire you to take some photos of my garden!

    Lee, my next post is about your garden... it was a great tour!

  15. You're just a little ahead of us with the fall color. While we do not have the spectacular fall colors of Conneticut, we can have beautiful fall color ~ however, the last 3 years have been pretty blah. I'm hoping for a better year this year.

  16. Sweetbay, fall color here can be variable too. In some of the best years the rain comes and knocks all the leaves off. If it is not so rainy or windy it might just be a poor year for color. Always a challenge to get a good show!


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