Beating the Invasion

colorThere is something about the fall season that lifts my spirits. The air is clean under crisp blue skies and the vibrant foliage can take your breath. You just want to step outside and bask in the beauty of buttery yellows and blazing reds of the maples, elms, birches and the sumacs that front every wood line.

Fall colors are reaching their peak right now on the Kancamagus Highway, the National Scenic Byway from Lincoln to Conway NH, and I’m sure the hoards of leaf peepers have arrived. A year ago we ventured up during the peak of color and found the 35-mile road through the White Mountain National Forest bumper to bumper with cars, campers, and buses. We hardly found places to pull off and park for the perfect views. This year we thought, “Wouldn’t it be a neat idea to beat the leaf-peeper invasion?” Yes! So last weekend we jumped in the car for a pre-peeper drive on the Kancamagus Highway just to see what we could see.

We hoped to arrive just before peak color and see the emerging reds, oranges, and yellows mixed with the cool, green of conifers without the distracting flood of vehicles driving bumper to bumper along the way. The timing was perfect as we had the approaching highways almost to ourselves.

Click on photos to enlarge:

fall colors 2014 The colors were a little cooler in the distance but quite grand. It was a peaceful and enjoyable drive.

A special delight was visiting the same apple orchard farmer as last year whose truck was brimming with juicy just-picked apples and some fresh vegetables. This time we sampled and bought a bag of crisp Mcintosh.

Apples!And when we arrived home, I made this and invited the kids to come and enjoy! Life is good…

Apple Crumb Pie

Apple Crumb Pie

Autumn in New Hampshire

Orange pumpkins, colorful gourds, vibrant mums, and Indian corn at garden centers and roadside stands tell us that fall has officially arrived. Although today, September 23, marks the first day of fall, subtle signs have been all around us for weeks.

Click photos to enlarge.

Rolling Green Nurserygourds at Rolling Green Nursery The change of seasons seems to begin around the time of our Harvest Moon when days begin to shorten, nights become cooler, and frequent morning mists create crystal dew drops on spiderwebs and fading blooms in the garden.

Harvest MoonGrasses become the star of the late summer/fall garden. The inflorescences of various species of grasses, whether fuzzy or lacy, replace the fading flowers of summer.

grasses at Rolling Green NurseryFall seeds, such as this milkweed seedpod, ripen slowly. The milkweed pod opens late in the season and releases hundreds of seeds attached to fluffy white hairs that aid in dispersal by wind.

Milkweed Seed Pods at Rolling Green NurseryIn my garden, a volunteer sunflower from our bird feeder slowly changed from glorious to battered and faded, but it is busy producing small sunflower seeds.

The magical transformation of leaf color comes a bit later to the Seacoast of New Hampshire. But with the cooler nights, mild days, and intense blue skies, colors are beginning to be teased from the maples.

MapleThe biggest sign of fall so far, I spotted while working at Rolling Green Nursery. When is the last time you saw a handsome puppy fully outfitted in a lovely argyle  sweater (It’s a people sweater!) on a cool day? That’s the surest sign that Autumn has officially arrived.

JD in his argyle sweater at Rolling Green Nursery

Drive-By Photography

For the last several days, fall colors at their peak have truly wowed us in Exeter. Whenever we are in the car, I grab my smartphone in an attempt to capture the brilliance of yellows and reds. I should just stop doing that because 90% of my photos are either a blur OR the sad trees have been directionally pruned around power lines by NHDOT.

This weekend, a quick errand to the P.O. gave me a view of the most stunning sugar maple I’ve seen thus far… growing in front of the old Congregational Church. We were creeping along with others pointing and gawking at the tree so I was fortunate not to end up with another iPhone photo smudge.

I was not alone in my drive-by photography. I saw two photographers with big cameras capturing images of the tree from the sidewalks. Maybe I’ll see those images later on a postcard or blog post.

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Becoming tourists on the ‘Kanc’

After researching the best places to see fall color and taking advice from local folks, including mister gardener’s barber, we decided pay heed and join the throngs of Leaf Peepers on New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway, touted as some of the best viewing of fall color in New England.

This two-lane road connects the towns of Lincoln and Conway about 35 miles through the White Mountain National Forest, providing breathtaking views of trees of crimson, yellow, amber, purples, oranges and pine greens. The fiery reds and reds and brilliant oranges of maples scattered among the deep green pines and the soft honey yellows of beech and aspen provided a riotous contrast of color on the peaks and valleys of these mountains.

I was advised not to try to photograph a sweeping vista because it just wouldn’t have the impact of a closer photograph. But I was mesmerized and overwhelmed by nature’s crazy quilt… a multi-colored blanket of fall shades.

I went in for a closer shot…..

still closer…

Then I understood.

There were plenty of opportunities for water views whether lakes or streams, waterfalls or the bit of drizzle and haze we had that day.

And there was dazzling color wherever you looked….  whether blanketing the valleys, ascending the peaks or just a bright punch of color on the side of the road.

We had fun joining the procession of Leaf Peepers who were all enjoying and exploring the scenic views along the Kancamagus Highway, affectionately called the ‘Kanc’ by locals. I can see an annual tradition in the making…

Coastal Color

Fall colors in our coastal Virginia landscape are fairly muted. We have splashes of oranges and yellows highlighting the woods and gardens and umpteen dogwood trees providing deep red accents under the pines. Soon the leaves will fall from these dogwood leaving a single bud standing erect at the tip of each twig containing the flower and two sets of leaves waiting to emerge in the spring.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Yellows are our prevailing fall color around these parts. The soft shades of yellow against the dark trunks repeat every year and we never tire of walking or driving beneath them.

Yellows on our road...

There are several trees around the yard that dazzle us with color and seem to glow in the sunlight like bright fluorescent bulbs. Two of our maple varieties are fall standouts:

Japanese cutleaf maple

Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

…and my all time favorite trees, the ginkgoes that never fail to put on a spectacular display just for us.

Ginkgo biloba

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

The Midas Touch

Whether the day begins overcast or not, golden sunbeams have flooded our bedroom each morning for the past week. Two male ginkgo trees (Ginkgo biloba) dominate the small pond garden just feet from our window and their fan-shaped leaves take on an luminous golden glow, a fall color second to none. We have watched for weeks as the bright green leaves began their fall journey turning faintly yellow at the tips, green slowly fading, and being replaced by more and more yellow. Many leaf-peepers and shutterbugs are awed by lemony ginkgo tree in fall landscapes, remarking that the color is too short-lived, the leaves all dropping within 24 hours. But we have developed a relationship with our ginkgos, watching the fall arrive slowly, reaching a crescendo of color lasting almost a week before it paints the ground, deck and pond in melted butter within a couple of days. Click photos to enlarge.

Another name for the ginkgo, this living fossil unchanged for 150 million years, is the Maidenhair tree,  some believe a name given to describe the parallel veins that fan outward like a maiden’s hair, but the resemblance to the pinnae of the Adiantum capillus-veneris or Maidenhair fern in fact gives the tree this nickname.  The species name, biloba, describes the split in the middle of the leaf, hence two-lobed.

Our two males command this area of the landscape, giving us essential shade in the summer and glorious color in the fall… but we cannot forget our smaller female ginkgo that continues to produce her pungent fleshy seeds each fall in another area of the yard. We allow these abundant seeds to germinate and the small trees we dig and share with anyone who expresses a desire to grow a living fossil, sex undetermined for 20 – 30 years. Today, cultivars like ‘Autumn Gold’  are created through grafting, splicing the cuttings from males on rootstock grown from seed.  And sadly, the tree is red-listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of Threatened Species due to the preference for the male ginkgo trees in the landscape.

If you live near me in Gloucester VA, I’d love to save a baby for your garden. Plant it away from public areas, especially sidewalks, just in case in 30 years, ‘he’ turns out to be a ‘she.’

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Finding Fall Yellows

Gathering together with children and grandchildren from 3 states, we hiked trails for two days in a quest for fall yellows in the mountains. Early October is too early for full fall colors but our expedition took us upward through shades of green.

click all photos to enlarge

 

We could perceive lighter shades of green in the trees in lower altitudes. The higher we climbed the more green we found in the form of moss and ferns and many shades of brown from fallen leaves that blanketed the forest floor.

We also encountered other browns on our mission to the top of the mountain such as this brown and white horse with his cowboy who, like us, was on an adventure to find fall color.

As we climbed, the terrain became a bit more precipitous and the rocks turned to moss covered bolders, perfect climbs for a troop of grandchildren with more energy than parents.

As we crested the top of our hike, we were rewarded by seas of goldenrod with vivid asters intermixed in lakeside meadows

These late blooming native purple asters with orange centers attracted a wide variety of late summer bumblebees, moths, flies, and butterflies. They were a perfect contrast to the yellows that blanketed the meadow in the form of goldenrod.

Easily recognized with its large clusters of yellow blooms, the perennial goldenrod, Solidago, was putting on a big show and was a magnet for butterflies and numerous insects, including spiders and other predators. We were happy to observe the great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) feeding on the nectar of the goldenrod.

After a brief rest, the hike downhill was a welcome reprieve for me.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester