There are few things glowing in the garden in late October. The Japanese maples are the last of the trees to share their radiant colors and they are just in time for Halloween. This small red maple is planted along the drive under the canopy of a white pine grove. Its name has long been forgotten. The name of this yellow Acer palmatum "Omurayama' is one I happen to remember for some unknown reason. These maples sit in relative anonymity during the summer months although they both have remarkable textural interest for those who pay attention to such things. In the fall, they complement one another as you can see. Behind the fishpond bench shiny tulip bulbs have been planted for spring entertainment. This is a parrot tulip called 'Rococo'. It is described as 'cardinal red with purple and green feathering'. Very appropriate for a parrot tulip. Just in front of the bench, between the flat field stones of the patio, there is a quiet cover of moss which is as inviting as a Persian carpet. It is a bit too chilly to walk barefoot on that moss now that cool weather has descended but sitting on the bench, contemplating the scene, is quite meditative. The grasses by the pond are shining in the lower angle of sunlight creating a sharp vertical element next to the velvet carpet. A short distance away, the purple beautyberry stands out among the shrubs in the back border. This one is Callicarpa japonica. There are several species and cultivars available and this shrub can now be found in many gardens. That purple, well, it is quite royal I think. The berries of this shrub do not persist throughout the winter but they do add needed drama at the end of the season. Here in Rhode Island the days are getting shorter and the angle of the sun is much lower in the sky. The chipmunks are very busy running to and fro to their stone wall which frames the garden. There are just a few acorns this year and they are busy claiming them for their stash. There are still chores to be done but I feel like hibernating already. The next big drama could very well be the first snowfall. I hope there is something in between purple berries and white snow. The garden always makes me wait and see for myself.
It is common to accept much of what we know without question. Take the dogwood for example. Did you ever wonder how that tree got its name? There is speculation that it is derived from the Old English word 'dag' which is short for dagger. Daggers were supposedly made from the hard wood of the dogwood. When I hear the word 'dogwood' I most often picture the Florida dogwood which is a lovely and delicate flowering tree but there are over fifty species of dogwoods and they encompass every shape and size from small shrubs to 30 foot spreading trees. There is one dogwood which all but the smallest garden should contain and that is the Chinese dogwood, Cornus kousa. Of course that is just my opinion but the Chinese dogwood waits until the spring show is over. It blooms at the beginning of summer with creamy white or pink star like flowers floating on the layered branches. A Chinese dogwood gives a garden substance, architecture and form. As a youthful maiden is upright and vase shaped, so is the young Chinese dogwood but as it ages it settles and spreads with a determination and maturity akin to a woman in later life. Last year my Chinese dogwood which is about 25 years old, flowered with intensity. Barely a leaf showed. This year the flowers are sparser. We did have quite a harsh winter which may have dessicated some of the flower buds. I have to say I am still enjoying the show this year in spite of the lack of abundance. The tree looks more like the night sky to me. In the center is the band of heavy flowers reminding me of the Milky Way while there are pinpricks of white over the rest of the tree. I would love to know exactly what mechanism adjusted the bloom this year. It could have been the cold, the wind or the soil fertility which changes over time but Mother Nature has her secrets. I will have to be content with the blooms, such as they are. In my area I have seen dogwoods with a similar bloom pattern this year but then I have seen full ones as well. The mystery remains.