Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blazing Autumn

Autumn color at the Kobe Municipal Arboretum in Japan
Russet, golden, deep wine, butternut, brick, lime, tan. These are but a few of the colors that leaves in the northern hemisphere turn during the last three months of the calendar year.

Here in the Lowcountry, we don't often get a colorful autumn and most of our leaf color arrives in late November. Our ubiquitous live oaks drop their leaves in the spring and never sport the bright colors of Japanese maples or ginkgo trees. The native dogwoods and Virginia creeper provide a bit of color but not enough to make it appear that we have four distinct seasons.
Autumn leaves in Savannah, Georgia on Thanksgiving Day 2010

A few days ago, I drove through the North Carolina mountains on my way to Kentucky and Tennessee. During the drive up, I didn't see much leaf color. The single stretch where trees with brilliant yellow leaves lined the interstate highway happened to be where the road is most narrow. Tractor-trailer trucks whizzed along far too close to one another in the right lane and the driver of the large pickup truck behind my car in the left lane seemed to want me to drive more than ten miles an hour above the speed limit. No leaf peeping for me!  
Autumn color at the North Carolina Welcome Center on I-40
near the Tennessee state line early yesterday afternoon
Thursday morning as I walked along Main Street in Danville, Kentucky I viewed the trees and ornamental plantings, as around me townspeople, and visitors in town for the Vice Presidential debate, chatted on Main Street, enjoying a crisp, clear day. The ginko trees that line this charming town had just begun to go from green to yellow.  Maples blushed, but many continued to contain branches that bore partially green leaves. Purple petunias and orangey geraniums brightened up the exterior of a real estate office while pots of yellow or lavender mums stood near other doorways.    
Fallen leaves near the labyrinth in Danville, Kentucky
Ginkgo trees line Main Street in Danville, Kentucky
On the day of the Vice Presidential debate at Centre College, the leaves 

on  the sunlit side of the street had just begun the transition to yellow
Friday morning driving down US 127 on my way to Nashville, I witnessed gorgeous fall colors. The trees formed mosaics on the sides of hills. On Sunday on I-65, I saw trees growing from natural rock walls. Sometimes they alternated in color as if someone had implemented a landscaper's design: yellow, red, butternut, yellow, red, butternut.    

On a walk though the woods with a friend in Tennessee, I saw plenty of colorful dropped leaves. Black walnuts, hickory nuts, and tiny persimmons also were scattered along the path. As we approached Sycamore Creek, a large flock of blackbirds (starlings, perhaps) flew in and settled in the tops of trees. 

One of my favorite past-times, during autumn and winter, is watching flocks of blackbirds gather and disperse, gather and disperse. Their calls might sound raucous, but their movement is like a symphony conducted by God.  

Red maples at Tofuku-ji in Kyoto, Japan

Last year I had the good fortune of visiting Tofuku-ji in Kyoto during early December. I was there to see the moss checkerboard, but because the peak fall color came slightly later than usual, I also saw the valley of red maples. So many tourists filled Tofuku-ji on that day that security guards were needed to maintain order in the temple grounds. 
Maple leaves in Kobe, Japan
Red maples in Mino, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Ginkgo leaves in Kobe, Japan
Kobe Municipal Arboretum, Kobe, Japan
Over the past eighteen months I've planted a ginkgo tree, two Japanese maples (one red), and an ornamental cherry in my front yard. Within a year or two perhaps my Lowcountry autumns will  be more colorful.
These leaves, fallen from ornamentals at a Raleigh, North Carolina hotel,
 I found so beautiful that the next  year I made a detour just to see the fall color
Because You Asked
All photographs in each of my Traveling Gardener blog posts were taken by me (Frances J. Pearce) unless otherwise noted. 

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Fallen leaves in multiple colors on the outskirts of Danville, Kentucky

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