November 23, 2010

The Quest for Late Autumn Color

Today is November 23 and, while there is technically a month to go until winter begins here in New England, the truth of the matter is that autumn is just a memory. We’ve had a dusting of snow, days when the temperatures barely got above freezing, and even the shriveled brown oak leaves have fallen from the trees.

Viburnum 'Catskill' in
early November
Remarkably, though, there are still a few shrubs on our property that have defied the season and have pleasing autumn color. A few others have just succumbed to the inevitable. Among the latter, a viburnum ‘Catskill’ that held onto its bright yellow leaves until last week and a pair of fothergillas that succumbed at the same time.

Spirea Ogden 'Mellow Yellow'
The photos here, all taken this morning, tell the story of the final round contestants. In our street-side shrub bed, a spirea Ogden ‘Mellow Yellow’ is brilliantly yellow, red and gold. It has the twin distinction of being an early bloomer with a haze of white flowers in April.

Itea 'Henry Garnet' on
November 23
The champ, though, is this Itea ‘Henry Garnet’. There are two on the property; one in the afirementioned shrub bed, the other in a rock garden behind our home. The leaves are a beautiful palette of gold, red, rust and brown. If this isn’t enough to get the neighbors to dig out their invasive burning bush, nothing is.

Oak leaf hydrangea, also
November 23
The third late-autumn beauty is our oak leaf hydrangea (hydrangea quercifolia), which just began to turn at the beginning of the month. Some leaves are still green but most are now rimmed in red and yellow. The specimen in this photo is now about nine years old with a circumference of twenty feet or better. It’s a keeper.

There’s also a Carolina sweetshrub (calycanthus) on a protected side of the house that is full of yellow leaves. I won’t count it for now because of its location and the fact that its ‘mother’ out in the shrub bed, shed the last of its leaves about two weeks ago.

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