Nov 19, 2009

Legends of the Fall

One of the things I hear from clients who have moved to California from other regions of the country is, "there's no fall color here." And while I'll grant that the Bay Area is no New England, I have to say that this autumn the trees seem particuarly brilliant.

While lots of factors influence fall leaf color, what I've noticed this year is that [a] we had a fairly mild summer, so fewer leaves scorched and departed early; [b] the cold nights arrived with a vengeance right around the autumnal equinox, giving the trees not one but two cues (light and temperature) that it's time for dormancy; and [c] the dry summer has persisted into fall, stressing trees into withdrawing their green chlorophyll earlier and more quickly (thereby revealing the natural anthocyanins and carotene colors).

Some trees with legendary fall color include Acer freemanii (Red Maple), Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair Tree), Quercus coccinea (Scarlet Oak), Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple), the native Acer circinatum (Vine Maple),
and of course the reliably fluorescent Pistacia chinensis (Chinese Pistache) and Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum). From a drive around my Palo Alto neighborood this morning, I've posted photos of these and more at my Flickr site.

To my eye, the colors peaked late last week, so as you're out and about over the next few days, I hope you'll make it a point to notice and appreciate the colors before they come back to earth. If you see something particularly stunning, feel free to send it in. And if you have favorite autumn plants of your own, please share!

11 comments:

Dirt Guy said...

I agree John. I think the colors this fall have been some of the best we've seen in awhile. The decorative pear, liquid amber & crepe myrtle in my neighborhood look great right now.

Susan said...

Ok, I don't mean to outshine you (or should I say out color you) here in the east, but....hey, how do I get you a pic?

John said...

Thanks for the validation, Matt. I trust my eyesight but never my memory... searching old posts reveals I've gushed "this is the best fall EVER!" a few times already. This season I've been impressed by how long the colors are lasting; some pears around us are almost bare by now, but others are just beginning to color.

Susan, you're not playing fair by showing trees from back East, but I'll allow it this once. If you have pics posted online, can you put the link in a comment here? I'd love to see what a "real" autumn looks like.

Susan said...

All's fair in west vs. east!

This is a pic I took during one of our fall outings in central Virginia.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23722047@N02/2427991761/

John said...

OK, Susan, that is SO not fair. Here I am salivating over my view of three trees that happen to have color out of a dozen... you've got a whole vista of them. {sigh}

Susan said...

If it makes you feel any better, all my perennials are now gone and I have no garden. All is not perfect in the east, you see. But I will admit, the "vista" does make up for it!

moosh said...

Lovely fall color. More subtle than other areas but still nice.

Hoover Boo said...

Don't forget that though we may not have many trees that color up, Aloes, Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire', and some of the Coprosmas pink, purple, and coral up brilliantly in cool weather. :)

John said...

Hoover, you are so right! And as long as we're looking down, I'll also throw Ceratostigma plumbaginoides and some of the Nandina sisters into the mix... thanks for the reminder!

Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel said...

John,
After moving West from Chicago I was shocked and heartened to see so much striking fall color in Central Marin. It was quite glorious this year, perhaps due to warmer weather and few storms?
Happy, happy holidays & warm wishes for 2010!
xoxox Alice

John said...

Thanks, Alice! And a happy holiday to you as well. I agree — whoever is doing the plantings in Marin is doing 'em right! I'm always impressed with the median along Sir Francis Drake up to the art & garden center... maybe the A&GC exerts some invisible influence?