Fall meanderings

Fall brings the fog, which always looks and feels so ethereal. I find it soothing after so much sun, heat, drought, and smoke. I know many others find fall depressing. But for me, the season means lots of squash (a favorite vegetable), pumpkin spice, beautiful leaves, drying apples in the kitchen, cozying up inside, and things are just a little less hectic in the garden. The air outside smells fresh again – it’s a new beginning in a way.

Speaking of beginnings, so far the beginning of December has been weirdly, unseasonably warm (in the 60s during the day) and dry – hardly any rain and more sun than usual. It feels ominous and I find it hard to enjoy weather that reminds me that the environment is so far out of whack. It looks like my long-term plan to do xeriscaping is a good one.

I took a series of photos back at the end of October and early November when the weather was a little more normal. I do want to capture the essence of fall before it’s officially over and get a post up about it. So, here it goes.

I found this red oak on the way in to work one morning. The stark, bare branches outlined against the fog coupled with the dilapidated white building and the gloom cast by the remaining leaves in the center of the tree seemed so magical.

Getting closer, underneath the tree, the gloom seemed to lift and instead of feeling depressing, I felt warm and protected. I do miss the more vibrant colors from the Finger Lakes region of New York, but the russety browns are comforting in their own right.

Later that evening, walking back to the parking lot, I caught these red oak leaves in the last of the late afternoon sun.

The ginkgos were also at their best that afternoon. Such a clear, golden yellow, especially when highlighted by the setting sun against a clear blue sky.

Not much vibrant color here, but the muted greens, yellows, and browns of the trees in the foreground against the bare, grey, gloomy background perfectly captures a typical damp fall day in the Pacific Northwest.

Our bigleaf maple in the backyard has long since finished shedding its leaves, but it really put on quite a show back in October. Maybe one of its best years ever. The picture, sadly, doesn’t convey the wall of glowing yellow that dominated the backyard for about a week.

The carpet of yellows and russet browns underneath.

And, a closeup photo of the fungus (Rhytisma punctata) that causes punctate tar spot on bigleaf maple leaves. Those are the little black dots in the center of the next photo. You can see that the black spots are surrounded by a ring of green, sometimes called a green island. The green island occurs when the fungus is able to keep the surrounding leaf tissues from dying as quickly as the rest of the leaf. The fungus is essentially keeping this portion of the leaf alive a little longer so that it can get some extra carbohydrates before winter hits. Smart fungus.

A river of yellow poplar leaves extends up the driveway towards the garage. The Moai head keeps watch.

The leaves smell so good. At one point, the tree was dropping about 30 leaves per minute. It had been dropping them like that for about a week and continued to drop them at a slower rate for a while longer. By my calculations, that’s at least 302,400 leaves (7 days x 24 hours x 60 minutes x 30 leaves)! No idea how accurate that is, but I do like to put a number on it.

The falling leaves all get caught in the Pittosporum divaricatum. At some point, I will have to clean them out because they end up looking ugly and ratty by spring. But for now, they get to sit there until I decide it’s a priority. Here’s a poplar leaf…

…and a small, bigleaf maple leaf (what an awkward phrase).

Sort of a bust week for gardening. I had such big plans, but they went awry. It’s a shame, because we had some decent dry weather. Here’s hoping this coming week will go a little more to plan.

Week of 11/29/2021 to 12/5/2021: Low = 33°F. High = 61°F. Weekly precipitation = 0.20 inches (rain).

Garden chores accomplished: Stuck some broadleaf evergreen cuttings. Nothing outside.

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