No, not the town in New York, the little cartoon bird who skates on frozen ponds. That time has arrived here as on many mornings this past week the little birdbath in the back garden has offered up a solid surface. It is somewhat sad to see but inevitable. The magnolia tree, Magnolia macrophylla, has lost its very large leaves and the hosta leaves have either turned to mush or skeletelized as the season progresses. Little remains of the summer garden and fall has packed up and left even though the calendar gives us another month. Mother Nature rarely looks at the calender though. This year the witch hazel has put on quite a show. This was planted as a Hamamelis 'Arnold's Promise' but most retail witch hazels are grafted to more sturdy rootstock and this graft failed. It has reverted to that rootstock, the native Hamamelis virginiana which blooms in fall rather than spring. H. 'Arnold's Promise' would be the first tree to bloom here in the spring but the H. virginiana is the last to bloom here and it is as welcome a sight. There are other bits and pieces of color if one takes the time to really look. The hellebore is poised to bloom. It sits in suspended animation now and will stay at this stage during the cruelest days of winter. If the snow recedes these lime green buds are visible and a reminder and a promise of future blooms. For now, this little viola sits shivering in the cold. It would be overlooked if it were blooming when blooms abound but now, in the low light of late fall, it glows in the crack of the walkway. It seems to me to be a miracle in miniature.
Here it is mid-November and there are many garden tasks still needing attention. I have been ignoring them I will admit. There has been cleaning and painting inside the house this past week or so and before that the days were nice enough to play golf. I love the perfect lawn of a golf course and that is just where it should stay. Here I embrace the 'freedom lawn' which is currently covered with leaves. I do have to get them removed before heavy snow. Yet another task. Today Mother Nature has thrown a curve ball. Or, perhaps a snow ball. Temperatures dropped and rain turned to the first snow. There really isn't much accumulation and the weather will warm a bit before winter's cold, cruel fingers fully grip the garden so I have time for more garden chores. The snow this early does highlight the texture of many plants but soon they will flatten and tatter. There is just one spot of color left in the garden. The Colchicum 'Waterlily' is still in bloom. I had planned to cut many of the standing perennials down mainly to reduce the amount of spring work which has to be done but this snow has caused me to rethink cutting some of them. The sedum is always left to stand with snow caps during the winter and the grasses provide a good amount of interest to the winter garden as well. I was thinking of cutting this Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' which is standing a good seven feet tall. It turned black this week. It is dramatic and I now think I will have to leave it. Who can resist this drama? Drama is so much better in the garden than in life. What do you think? Should I cut it or leave it?
Mother Nature has saved the brightest of all of the fall colors for last. Many trees have dropped their leaves but the Japanese maples seem to be among the last to put on their fall robes. Brilliant red, bright yellow and a mix of both colors are visible in many of the Japanese maples in the gardens and woodlands. The above red Japanese maple was planted many years ago and its name is long forgotten. This time of year it screams for attention. Behind it is the golden yellow of an Acer palmatum 'Omurayama' which was planted the same year. The full moon maple, Acer japonicum aconitifolium, blends its reds and yellow. The result is a leaf which glows as bright as any ember. The lime green of the Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' has morphed to brilliant yellow which sits pretty right in front of the red cut leaf Japanese maple. Oak leaves are littering the ground and the time for chopping them and adding them to the garden beds is at hand. There are many chores to be attended to in the gardens. Some perennials will be cut mainly to reduce the chores of springtime. Others are left to feed the birds and add winter interest to the garden. The garlic needs to be planted quite soon and in the rest of the vegetable garden the arugula and kale are still being harvested. Brussel sprouts and carrots don't mind the cold at all. Their flavor is heightened by cool temperatures. There is nothing sweeter than a carrot pulled from the ground after a few frosts. November is a rather gray month in my garden. It is a transition from the brilliant decline of October to the dormant state of December. The first days though, are brilliant this year. What is shining in your garden at the beginning of this month?