Saturday, November 12, 2011

Priceless Gold

These are the days I look forward to as summer winds down in September. When the leaves start looking old and tired, the sun starts moving south, and the ground is as dry as baked bones, I start thinking of the sweet, cool rains of fall, the chill mornings and freshening breezes, and the slow awakening of the red, orange and gold colors lying hidden in the greens.

My garden is loaded with gold this year—and I feel richer than I ever have! My oldest Sango Kaku maple was the first tree to show color, and that was early in October. Now most of the other trees are in show-off mode and I'm spending a lot of time at the back windows just enjoying looking out.

Thanks to the maples, dogwood, and the weeping larch, my path down from the house is a lot more colorful this year.

If you go to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden when the maples have turned and look past the long bridge, you'll see a beautiful pair of Japanese maples—one red and one gold. Ever since I saw that arrangement, I've been wanting to recreate it. I'm on my 3rd and 4th maples now, but I think I have the ones I want—my small O Isami, and the red Beni Otake.

Almost all the maples are in color now, including my little laceleaf viridis:

and the beautiful crimson palmatum Hilleri, which has gone through pretty much every shade of red now, from dark brick to orange-red and lipstick, to finish up at cherry. It finally got taller than I am this year.

The Satomi dogwoods are sharing the spotlight, with the one in the most sun going gold and red again, not as dark so far as last year, in fact so bright it glows. It's hard for my eyes to separate the colors in person, it's actually easier to see in a photograph. This is the one I planted bareroot as a single stick, and after 6 years it's at least 7 feet tall.

Although I can see bits of the big O Isami from my house, I have to walk down into the garden to get this view of my little maple grove, the O Isami and three Sango Kakus.

My paths are going to be getting a bit of dressing this winter. One of my friends has a bunch of long pine needles she really wants to get rid of. I got enough the other day to line the first two paths. I hope to get a thick enough layer to suppress the weeds. They're very nice to walk on. They're too slippery to put on the sloping paths, but I hope they work for the level ones.

The hydrangeas aren't going to bed either, without one last show of color, a lot more muted but still beautiful. These flowers were rich purple in full bloom, now they're pale blue-violet with fuschia frosting.

Have you ever seen a hydrangea do this? Maybe it feels like a poinsettia this year. I don't remember if this mophead is a named variety or one of the bargain pots I got at Fred Meyer, or what color the flower is. I'll have to wait until next year to find out again.

What a wonderful finish to the gardening year—to wake up to such riches.


  1. Your description of your garden colors is lovely. I remember my first year here in Oregon and being disappointed in the lack of red color to the leaves, something I so loved growing up with back East. I can't complain any more the shades of red this Fall have been spectacular.

  2. Hi Jackie! I've been thinking about that a lot the last few weeks as the local color goes crazy. The east coast really does have it all over us in native reds, but we get the prize for orange and gold, for sure. Now that there are so many beautiful red-leaved maples that people have planted around town, there's more red for us every year.