December 15, 2011

The Big Bright Green....

If you are reading this from a subtropical climate, be prepared to scratch your head for the next few minutes.  You see, I have a problem.  One of my shrubs refuses to acknowledge that it is winter.

Our spirea Ogden Mellow Yellow,
still hanging on, with a yucca in
the foreground.
Here in New England, we cherish a group of shrubs that hold out against the end of autumn.  There is a spirea Ogden Mellow Yellow that is still a golden brown-yellow, and it is framed against a yellow-green yucca.  It’s a pleasure to look at, as is an itea ‘Henry Garnet’ with mottled golden leaves that cling tenaciously in mid-December.  Ultimately, of course, they will drop the last of their leaves, but they will have earned my appreciation for their providing a memory of summer as we approach the shortest day of the year.

And, of course, we have our evergreens up here.  Our property is studded with rhododendron; wonderfully dark green shrubs with waxy leaves that brighten up the winter.  There is also multiple forms of ilex – holly to the rest of the world – and boxwood.  We do not lack for greenery and, if we do, there are always the white pines, framed against a chalk-white sky.

Why is this buddleia
still green on December 15?
And so I am at a loss to explain a yellow buddleia that, for reasons known only to itself, is still in full leaf – full green leaf.  Green leaf as though it is still July.

There is rule around here: deciduous trees and shrubs lose their leaves in the autumn.  This butterfly bush seemed to have forgotten the lesson.

Next summer, it should look like this...
There is science at work: less sunlight (and we are down to eight hours a day right now) means an end to production of chlorophyll.  During the growing season, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As the days shorten, chlorophyll production slows down and then stops and eventually all the chlorophyll is destroyed. The carotenoids and anthocyanins that are present in the leaf are then unmasked and show their colors.  This buddleia seems to have skipped that class.

The reason I’m not rejoicing at having a green shrub is that – well, it’s wrong.  Leaves fall and we get bare branches around here.  I’m used to it.

So, do your thing, buddleia.  Join your compatriots on the property and shed those leaves.  Winter starts in a week, for crying out loud. 

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