Friday, November 30, 2012

Mountain Maples

Kobe, Japan

If I appear to be obsessed with autumn leaf color this year, it's because I actually am. As much as I appreciate the calm that shades of green induce, the crimsons, russets, and golden yellows of autumn are what wow me. 
Blushing maple leaves
Sometimes natural lighting cooperates during field trips. Sometimes it does not. Yesterday a mostly overcast sky provided diffused light. For the most part, the photographs I took lacked the contrast I sought and the colors my eyes experienced differed from those my camera recorded. 

The ginko trees on Kobe's Rokko Island have begun to drop their leaves
 In Kobe the trees at lower elevations have begun to drop their leaves. The foliage on the maples on Rokko-san - the mountain range rising above this city of one and a half million souls - have just begun the transition from green to vermillion. Yesterday my daughter led me up a path above Kobe's Okamoto district so that we could enjoy the early stages of color transition.

Metropolitan Kobe glimpsed through the trees
Maple leaves
 Along the way we encountered Japanese hikers, middle-aged and older, usually alone, sometimes in pairs - these hikers also there to absorb the beauty. Often they would stop to tell us about special places further up the hill. I understood nothing beyond "Konnichiwa." Fortunately, my daughter is able to understand more of the language. 
Bits of blue sky
 As we descended the hill, a pair of elderly women motioned us toward them. At first we thought they wanted us to hurry down and vacate the path. Only when we reached the spot where they stood, and allowed our eyes to focus on the scene above, did we realize their intent - to share a beautiful display of color we might have otherwise overlooked. 
The recommended view, even more lovely in real life


For me, the wild boars we saw during our urban expedition were a bonus.
Wild boar warning
One of several wild boars we saw, this one seemed more laid back than scary
Information in Japanese about Rokko-san:
Information in English:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Cupola House Gardens Revisited

Thursday as I drove along US Highway 17 through North Carolina I began to taste Thanksgiving flavors a week early. I wasn't actually eating anything. The leaf color, though, so thoroughly autumn, brought to mind the flavors of turkey gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie. I could almost smell the cinnamon and nutmeg seasoning in the imaginary dessert. I salivated as I drove past leaves the color of butterscotch and persimmon.  

The Cupola House
Detouring from Highway 17, I headed to the Cupola House in Edenton, the location of the colonial revival gardens I first visited and photographed in May. Mrs. Torres at Emilio's General Store & Take Away on South Broad Street told me I was in luck - the garden volunteers had just finished weeding the previous day.   

These pink roses might seem to belong to spring or summer
According to the Cupola House Gardens brochure "Donald Parker, a landscape architect with Colonial Williamsburg, designed these gardens based roughly on the second of C.J. Sauthier's 1769 maps of Edenton."  

Cyclamen emerge amongst autumn leaves 
Claude Joseph Sauthier, a native of Strasbourg, France, trained in surveying, architecture, and landscape gardening, and was brought to North Carolina by Governor Tryon. In an essay entitled "People and Plants: North Carolina's Garden History Revisited" (British and American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century, edited by Robert P. Maccubbin and Peter Martin, 1984, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia), author John Flowers writes "Some have suggested that the garden plots that appear in most of [the] town plans were used merely to decorate the maps...But Sauthier was too careful a draftsman and accurate surveyor to ornament his work so casually." 

Yellow - an expected color for autumn flowers

Not all of the plants placed, in accordance with Parker's design, at the Cupola House Gardens survived. Over the years garden volunteers have made changes as necessary to the landscape with a pleasing result.

A ginko tree with bright yellow leaves grows beside the house and next to Broad Street

The herb garden with pomegranate trees in the background

My Garden Update
Some species of insect that loves tomatoes also feasted on the skin of my pomegranates this year. Better luck next year, perhaps?

The leaves on my dogwood trees never turn such a vibrant red but where I live we don't usually have a cold snap before the leaves have dropped. (Crape myrtle tree on the left, dogwoods center and right.)

To learn more about Edenton's Cupola House, visit the website: