Saturday, November 1, 2008

November Muse Day: Fall Color


"How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow."
- Elsie N. Brady

Garden Muse Day is sponsored the first of each month by Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago. Visit her for more poetry about gardening today.

November always seems to me to be a wildly unpredictable month. Often times it is cold and rainy, other times the sun shines brightly through the newly bare trees. Many years the first snowfall has appeared by the end of the month. But right now as the new month opens, we have beautiful weather with the promise of warm temperatures for several more days. It is the perfect time to enjoy the last of the season's bright colors.

In early October I read about the Fall Color Project sponsored by Dave at the Home Garden to track the peak fall color around the country. I thought it sounded like a great idea and decided to participate. So for the last two weeks I have been snapping photos of the trees and colorful foliage in my yard, while waiting for the color to peak. The problem, though, was that while I waited for the maple tree to slowly turn completely orange, other trees had put on their autumn colors or none at all and then lost their leaves! Like Cindy at Walk Down the Garden Path, I think the peak has already past, so it is high time I show what colors we have had here in central Illinois. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are from my yard.

The pink and red flowering crabapples were the first to lose their leaves--in early September. But two weeks ago as I began observing the trees in detail for good photos, I spotted a few pink flutters in one of the trees.

Moving in for a closer look, I saw this pink blossom in mid-October! I wonder if the summer-like weather we had for much of October confused them into thinking it was spring again.

The white crabapple became my favorite this summer with its canopy of white blossoms lasting into June. It was the favorite spot for the birds, too, especially a pair of cardinals, who probably had a nest here, judging by their actions.

You can see the tree still has half its leaves, but what a show of berries! I have never seen this crabapple as loaded with its small fruit as this year. Wouldn't it be nice if they stayed here till Christmas?

One goal I had this summer was to identify all the trees in my yard. I discovered, though, that identifying a tree is not as simple as looking at just the leaves and finding them in a tree identification book. One must look at the bark, the shape of the twigs, the buds, and the fruit to make a positive i.d. Consequently, I still have some "mystery" trees. The tree below is not a mystery, but was a surprise to me--I didn't realize we had a second oak tree. It's not nearly as old as the big oak at the front of the yard--it's tall, but not very large in circumference.

While some oaks put on quite a show of color in the fall, mine don't. The photo above looks deceiving. Although it appears many of the leaves have turned yellow, in reality the sun is illuminating the green leaves. Clicking on the photo to enlarge it may give you a truer picture.

Both oak trees are still full of green leaves. The leaves don't turn yellow or even red, but gradually wither to a brown and fall off. Beautiful all the rest of the year, these are not fall showstoppers.

I think this tree above is a honey locust. We have a few of these in our yard as well; their leaves turn yellow before dropping to the ground.

Near the roadside is what is probably the second oldest tree on our property, which my husband identified as a hackberry. Not a particularly shapely tree, it did put on a show of bright yellow, which I had trouble capturing in a photo.

Here is my true mystery tree. I think it is a variety of ash, but I'm not sure. This picture was taken two weeks ago as its leaves began to turn to a dull reddish mauve. I waited for it to reach its peak color, but last Sunday strong winds came, and poof!--all the leaves were gone!

Sometimes it pays not to wait too long. At least I do have a good view of the main color in our yard--the bright maple behind it. The reason I'm still not sure about identifying this tree as an ash is because of what you can spot higher up in the branches, as seen below.

Small fuzzy brown "berries" hang from the higher branches and are still clinging, even now that the leaves have blown away. They are not nuts, but look like clusters of tiny pinecones. My tree book doesn't show anything like this for any of the ash trees. Any ideas on what type of tree it might be?

This tree, though, I am pretty certain is an ash. Located in the center of the front yard, its darker color adds some balance to the bright maple on the other side.

Two weeks ago the leaves were beginning to turn to a burgundy, and this week they were at their peak, as seen below.

I took this photo just after sunrise, so the sun is playing tricks again in the photo, but trust me, they are a lovely shade of dark burgundy.

Of course, the most magnificent specimen of color in my yard this fall is the maple tree. I've already shown it in earlier posts, and you can see it hiding behind the "ash" in some of the photos above. It was interesting to watch this fall, as the leaves slowly turned, starting from the top of the tree and moving downward a little each day. I think it is at its peak now--the leaves that haven't turned a gorgeous shade of orange, red, or yellow are now a bright chartruese instead of green.

I had hoped to take a drive some time in the last two weeks to catch some of the fall color show in our area, but a few days of work, another round of the virus I had in September, and other commitments kept me too busy or too tired to take some time off. (And I have been a woman on a mission--planting all those bulbs I bought!) Yesterday, Beckie and I did take a drive to Springfield, about an hour and half drive from here, but we were on our way to see a specialist about her mysterious rash (hopefully, she will have some better news to share with you soon). We could only admire the trees as we sped down the highway, but it was obvious from the many bare trees we saw that the peak of color has indeed passed.

We did notice this bright chartreuse maple at a rest area, though.

And, parking at the doctor's office, a row of bright reddish orange shrubs filled with berries lined the sidewalk. We weren't sure--are these viburnum? These berries were as large as grapes!

As I started to plan this post on Thursday, I decided I really needed some photos besides those of my yard. I didn't have time for a "real" drive, but thought I would take the long way home after some errands to try to find some broader views of color. I eventually found myself near Brownfield Woods, a preserve of native trees on the outskirts of Urbana, Illinois. The first photo of this post and the last one were both taken there. As you can see, while we have some spectacular specimens of color, the panoramic views are not as colorful. Perhaps it is the species of trees or perhaps because it was so warm here for so long, many of the trees have stayed green instead of turning.

I enjoyed the views of the woods, nevertheless, and found myself humming "Country Roads, take me home..." as I downloaded these two photos. Very appropriate, too, as I wound up getting lost in the country only 20 minutes from home! Although I eventually found my way, I realized an important rule for drivers: Don't get so entranced by the beautiful trees that you lose sight of the road you are on!

The true meaning of life is to plant trees,
under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
-Nelson Henderson


  1. Rose, I keep meaning to tell you how much I love the park-like quality of your property. Each tree gets to show you it's real shape, which is harder to do in a crowded setting like we have. What a beautiful setting to live in!

  2. Trees are so wonderful. Very great. You have a smorgasboard of great ones. I wish I could help you with your mystery tree. You would think I would know but I tend to get them wrong so I will excuse myself on this one. But, the last one with the berries could be a viburnum, but it also looks like the berries on my red twig dogwood. It might be that too. Hopefully some can ID it. Very nice color still!

  3. An excellent post with beautiful photos, Rose. Delighted to hear you and Beckie (Thelma & Louise) shared another adventure together. Good friends (and family) are God's greatest gift. Stay well and do hope to hear positive news regarding (Thelma? Louise?) Wishing you a joyful November. Hugs.

  4. What fine colours you've found this Autumn Rose. And a lovely poem to go with them.

    I had a problem with the trees all peaking at different times for the Fall Colour Project too!

  5. Rose, this is perfect for GBMD and a wonderful addition to Dave's Fall Color Project!

  6. I love the poem as well as your pictures of fall trees. Our Ash tree has zillions of seeds just waiting their turn to fall. The leaves on the tree are gone. Those seeds are so prolific I am always pulling Ash seedlings out of the flower gardens. UGH... I love the shade it gives us. I am sorry I don't know what kind of Ash youhave. It is different than mine I know. I really don't know the variety of Ash that we have. It was here before I moved in.

    Have a great weekend. Enjoy this gorgeous weather while you can. I will be thinking of the leaves waiting for snow like the children (and me).

  7. You have some pretty colors there Rose. The Maple is so pretty with it's fall foliage.

    I have the same problem with my oak. It goes from green to completely brown. No color change at all.

  8. Thanks for the lovely poem, Rose. I'm a tree person myself. Wish I could see some of the details better and id them for you.

    The shrub with the black berries looks like Aronia or Chokeberry. They come in two shades -black and red. The Fall color is always outstanding.

  9. Rose,

    Lovely color in your neck of the woods! You still have good color in the tree canopy!

    For tree id: I google "id tree" and usually there are several good choices to help me. Most sites walk you through choices! It is quite do need to know what the leaf margins look like and whether the leaves are opposite l or alternate! Good luck, it is fun to be able to id our trees!


  10. wonderful to be surrounded by so many beautiful trees........they always give such a powerful image.....I love the changing colours and the contrasts.......

    Beautiful quote at the end of your made me think of all that I have planted here....perhaps my grandchildren will sit beneath them.

    The weather here is awful and has been for is so cold.....windy.......and we have had continuous rain garden is very quickly turning into a bog........

    Enjoy the sunshine and make the most of it......

  11. I love the poem at the begining as well as all your lovely photos. You have such a large garden, ours is handkerchief sized in comparison!

  12. HI Rose! the oaks and the sugar maple and the clump linden still have their leaves...the ash...not so much! love your display of color and I imagine in the next week or so we will look the same!

  13. Well I enjoyed your poem and fall color as well.

  14. Thank you, Joyce. Our front yard is a couple of acres. I love to sit on the front porch and look at the view as the seasons change. Of course, my husband doesn't always appreciate all the mowing:)

    Tina, I have to admit if I had to choose between having a garden or having trees all around me, I'd choose the trees.

  15. Joey, Thanks for the kind comments. It wasn't much of an adventure yesterday, but at least Beckie found a doctor who seemed confident of his diagnosis. I know she left feeling more optimistic than she has in a long time. And I finally checked out who was who in the movie--Beckie is definitely Louise! Darn, Susan Sarandon is one of my favorites, too; I wanted to be her:)

  16. VP, Thanks, and I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one having trouble with this. As I drove to a football game today, I kept noticing more and more colorful trees--maybe they haven't reached their peak after all!

    Nancy, Thanks. The two themes seemed to just fit together today.

    Lisa, Thanks for the info on your ash--I wasn't sure if those little "berries" were seeds or not, but they probably are. I just wanted to make sure it was an ash tree, even if I don't know the specific variety. This was certainly a glorious November day!

    Susie, the maple tree really is magnificent. Some oaks do turn beautiful colors, but they must be different varieties than we have.

    Carolyn Gail, Thanks for hosting Muse Day! It's always fun to think of or find a suitable poem for the month. I tried so hard to get a clear photo of those "berries" or seed clusters on the ash, but they all came out blurry. Thanks for the i.d. on the shrub; I was really impressed with those berries.

    Gail, We still have a lot of green showing in the trees; they don't seem to be ready to give up summer either. Thanks for the tip on finding ways to i.d. the trees. I have tried one or two websites, but I usually get stuck on the bark. I need to look a little more carefully at the trees first.

    Cheryl, I'm sorry the weather there is so nasty. We are having almost summer-like weather again--amazing! I love the quote at the end, too. It reminds me of my grandfather who planted the trees around the house where I grew up. Fortunately, he lived into his 80's and was able to see them as mature trees. You will definitely be leaving a legacy for your grandchildren.

    Suburbia, Thanks, but remember--I have a very large yard, but only small "gardens." But I do enjoy having so much space--it's my favorite form of stress reduction!

    Neva, It's been a beautiful fall, hasn't it? I think we've been lucky not to have so much rain and wind that might have blown away many of the leaves.

    Mother Nature, Thank you, and thanks for stopping by!

  17. Rose, a new to me poet. But a great choice of poems for this muse day. All your fall color turned out great. And of course I love all your trees. It's great that you are enjoying them. Thanks again for being my co-pilot and for being such a great friend.

  18. I think it was fine to combine your Muse day and fall color posting. I also really liked the quote at the end of your post. How true it is that when you plant a tree, you'll never enjoy its full growth, but Someone Else will (and that's the beauty of farsightedness)! :-) Thanks!

  19. It is a treat to see color in other parts of the country. You have some that I would never see here! Thanks.

    Layanee at Ledge and Gardens

  20. You have such a lovely variety of fall color on your property Rose. I love that Maple, are't they magnificent at this time of the year! But my fave has to be the red berries of that crabapple!

  21. You have such beautiful trees! I can relate to the problem of trying to figure out when the color has peaked. A few trees on my street are already leafless, yet the annoying Maple across the street has just started to turn. Too many years I've frozen my fingers raking the leaves from that tree after Thanksgiving.

  22. What a fun poem! Beautiful trees too.

  23. Hi Rose, it's amazing how the leaves seem to turn overnight and then suddenly they are carpet beneath your feet. Happy Muse Day. Excellent poem and pics.~~Dee

  24. Hi Rose ~ I love your selection for muse day. And all your photos. The crabapple berries have to be my favorite though. That tree is loaded! Thank you for the link love too!

  25. You have a yard big enough for more than one oak tree and lots more besides? Do you live in a mansion??

    How lovely to have room for so many trees. Your photos are great, as usual. I like the poem, but the quote appeals to me more!

    I don't know what's going on with the weather over here. It's very odd. Some trees have lost almost all of their leaves, but I haven't seen much colour, others are just beginning to change colour, but we've already had a bit snow! Most unusual!

  26. Beckie, I'm beginning to think I posted too early--some of the trees are turning even more this week. Glad to be your co-pilot, though we always manage to take a "scenic route" before the day is over:)

    Shady Gardener, Thanks for stopping by! I am thankful everyday for my in-laws' farsightedness in planting all the trees they did.

    Ginger, It has been fun looking at the fall color posts across the country.

    PG, I, too, am astonished at all the berries this year. The birds love this tree, but apparently they are still well-fed and eating as many as I would think.

    MMD, Yes, I beginning to think THIS week is the fall color peak:)

    WWW, Thanks for stopping by!

    Dee, So true--I kept waiting and waiting for the peak color, and then the leaves were gone!

    Cindy, I've enjoyed this fall color project seeing the fall foliage across the country, haven't you? But the hard part was really deciding when the "peak" was.

    Mean Mom, LOL, hardly a mansion:) I have a very large yard, but a very ordinary-sized house. Years and years ago, some of the yard was probably a cornfield, and much of it was pasture for sheep. That explains, too, why flowers grow so well in parts of the yard:)

  27. Rose, I so enjoyed your poem and pictures. I loved the first picture of the canopy of trees covering the street. I always get a good feeling when I pass underneath. We have a street like that near where I live, and I will go out of my way to drive down that road. Your trees are beautiful, and I love a good mystery--I hope you solve yours!

  28. Hi Rose, I agree with Carolyn Gail, the large blackish berries are aronia, they are known for the leaf color in the fall also. Calling you and Beckie Thelma and Louise is a good name for you guys too! HA Great color and you are indeed living in a mansion of trees!

  29. I agree, Maples are the stars of the autumn season. So many varieties and so many colors.

    Your yard does look like a park. Very beautiful.

  30. Your photos are lovely. I especially like your maple - and the ash that you don't know if it really is an ash. LOL!
    I heard the news about Beckie. Three cheers!! She's finally found a diagnosis and treatment.
    Such happy news.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this post and liked the poem at the beginning.

  31. All those berries! Bird heaven!

    Trees are always difficult for me to ID. You are certainly more trained than I.

    Nice variety, Rose!

  32. I'm at a loss about your mystery tree, at first I'd say beech because of the light "ashy" color bark, I enlarged the photo and can say, I've never seen berries like that.

  33. Morning Glories, Our town has several streets with canopies of trees, too; I love driving down them in the spring when they first leaf out, and in the fall they're gorgeous.

    Frances, Joey gave Beckie and me those names; we've gotten so we call ourselves that whenever we're on another gardening adventure. We're not quite as exciting as Susan and Geena, though:)

    Marnie, Thanks! I know other trees may be very colorful in the fall, but the maples just seem to outshine them all.

    Thanks, Wendy. I love that maple, too. It never fails to delight me each fall. Yes, Beckie finally has some optimism about finding a cure.

    Mary, The crabapple is near the porch where I like to sit whenever I can. It's a hub of activity for the birds! Just wish I could get a good picture of them:)

    Dawn, If all else fails, I may take the leaves and berries/seed clusters to a friend who teaches biology--she really knows her trees.

  34. Hi Rose - so nice to hear from you again and have time to read one of your posts :) Lovely fall trees...ours never last long enough (fall is my favourite season). Would you believe there were crab apple trees blooming here in December about 11 years ago? We had a very unusually warm winter (no snow until January!!) and the plants were VERY confused.

  35. Hi, Rose. I admire your determination to id your trees--I'm really terrible on any tree that isn't super obvious (like an oak) or that I didn't plant. Yours are gorgeous, and I'm glad your oaks have decided to put forward some color. Our oaks are about the last to turn and drop their leaves, so we'll have leaves (and work!) well past Thanksgiving. Your contribution to the color project is stunning.

  36. Planting trees for the future is a wonderful thing - and so is appreciating the trees of the present! We don't get a lot of fall color here, Rose - your trees are a treat!

    Is there any chance your mystery tree is a Sweet Birch? The seeds look a little like the picture. A friend had access to one of those trees long years ago and we glued the little cones on to something or other!

    Thanks for the woods walk.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


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