Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You say you want a revolution

Sea kale at Monticello.  Still jealous of how good it looks.
(I was going to go with "Words, words, words" to continue the Shakespeare streak, but sometimes you just need the Beatles instead.)

Not completely accidentally, I recently read, back to back, a pair of related books only one of which is garden-themed.  The first was Jill Lepore's The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History, a historian's examination of how the Tea Party uses the events of the American Revolution to present itself and its goals.  I did not read this for what is probably the usual reason, i.e. to gather ammunition for an assault on the Tea Party itself (though, nothing wrong with having some cobblestones in reserve to toss), but because I'd found myself in the odd position of having written a novel that begins with a visit to the Boston Tea Party (yes, it's about time travelers; they work for a Washington-area contractor in 2173; please send agents/editors my way) and includes a reactionary organization that idealizes the past, and having in fact written it (not, alas, by using a time travel device) several years before people started stapling tea bags to their hats (which... don't get me started, okay?) and waving signs about how none of us should pay taxes since the ancestors of some of us didn't like the dumping on our markets of shiploads of stale tea that despite having unfair duties slapped on it still undercut the smugglers' prices.  (Like most historical happenings, it was both very simple and very complicated.)  I'm still not quite sure how directly I need to reference in my characters' conversations what I hope would be a long-forgotten political group, but since I am revising the thing now and trying to get it published hopefully in this decade, it's not an aspect I can ignore.  Anyway, it's an interesting book (Lepore's, I mean, though I hope mine is too along with its three sequels), and though I clearly share her biases I think she presents her information pretty well.  And I do not like anachronism and presentism and the exploitation of selected snippets of what men who would have laughed to hear themselves called Founding Fathers said and wrote, so while I did wince once or twice at not-useful condescension, I did enjoy reading about it all, and I think it's a good lesson for all of us no matter what our political views: if you're going to use history as a tool, for God's sakes get it right or at least do some bloody research.

The potential for exploitation of Revolutionary heroes worried me a little, approaching Andrea Wulf's The Founding Gardeners, a sequel of sorts to her The Brother Gardeners (which explored 18th-century British-American sharing of botanical material and culture).  The newer book deals with the influence of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison (along with Franklin and others) on American attitudes toward nature and horticulture in the context of a new nation and its political structures.  While it is, I'm cynically sure, an attempt to sell books in an atmosphere of New Revolutionary Awareness, it works as a solid piece of nonfiction (and, see above, I use the word advisedly) and it's very good at expressing the yearning each of those early presidents felt for getting the hell out of the White House (or its earlier equivalents) and back to farming and obsessive landscaping.  Washington might as well have said, "I need to spend more time with my shrubberies."  And while it's a somewhat one-sided approach to early American history, regarding for example the founding of our political party system from the point of view of attitudes toward agriculture, it neither ignores other aspects of the problem nor sugarcoats (with either imported cane or homegrown maple) the animosity expressed, particularly between former friends Jefferson and Adams (they made it up later, largely in farm-related correspondence.  IMO this works better than golf).

Vigna caracalla (I think now reassigned as Phaseolus) at Monticello. 
The multi-person biographical approach, in fact, helps achieve balance between the personages (almost like crop rotation) and emphasizes both differences and similarities, along with how interesting these guys really were.  Jefferson will always be my favorite, flawed, contradictory and compulsive as he was, and I am getting to know Monticello fairly well now after several visits, but I need to see Mount Vernon again (it is the closest to me, after all) and I've never been to Montpelier (shame) or Adams's Peacefield.  I knew little about Madison as environmentalist (to use a presentist term for his advocacy on behalf of the natural world) and I think the frontier aspects of horticulture in this period are bountifully significant and, though I've already read William Bartram and Meriwether Lewis, worth more exploration (pun intended).  And I have a novel brewing in the back of my head about all of that, too...

One thing I really like about Wulf's work is how she brings out the importance of gardening in larger national and international contexts; people tend to lose that, or dismiss it.  Not just agriculture, which often gets ignored too (the implications of tea only being commercially grown in China in that period should be understood by anyone who talks about tariffs), but plain old gardening for pleasure and sustenance.  I recently reviewed a book (for Washington Gardener magazine; should be out in the winter issue) called Futurescapes, by Tim Richardson, about new trends in landscape design (a stretch for me; I usually grab the veggie gardening books), and really appreciated Richardson noting in one of his essays that "the dreaded G-word" has been regularly dismissed by landscape architects, who regard gardening as "bourgeois," "embarrassing," "uncool," and the province of right-wingers, old people, or social climbers.  But in the new professional zeitgeist, he says, urban landscape planners are beginning to think of themselves as "gardeners of cities," with emphasis on (gasp!) actual plants and how people relate to them.  It's not conformist or capitulating or backward-thinking, or for that matter purely trendy; it's a recognition that what we grow fundamentally affects our essential humanity and connects us to one another, and to the past and the future both.  And this was no less true in the eighteenth century than it is today -- differently true because it was a different time -- but equally important and, may I say, revolutionary.  Revolutions are not only fought with guns, or with hatchets to break up and destroy an addiction to the products of exploitation; they can be fought with seeds and roots and vegetables and the desire to go out into the wilderness (or the back yard) seeking knowledge, or to return to one's own farm in preference to the endless noise of political disputes.  Which last does not equal quiet retirement; just read Jefferson on the number of test crops "killed by bug" or otherwise lost in the battleground of the garden (and he was not just playing around but trying to help his seedling country become self-sufficient, a goal we still haven't realized, though for his own table the failed crops were replaced by produce bought from his slaves, who I'm sure tended to go for reliability over wild experiment).  It can be brutal out there, and ever-changing and challenging; I submit, however, that it seems to be easier to learn from one's mistakes in a garden than in the politico-historical arena.  (Also, you can often eat your mistakes, and they seldom taste like crow.)

Words, words, words.  More visits to historic gardens called for, for sure, and also I need to grow one symbolic tea plant.  Merrifield Garden Center has them; I nearly bought one this fall but it started to rain and I went inside and bought a lime tree instead.  Did not really have a place for Camellia sinensis, anyway (except for where I already put the other camellia), but one will be found.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Now is the winter of our discontent... any time now, really...

(Apparently I am just going for as many Shakespeare-themed post titles in a row as possible.  Ignore me...)

It's been a strangely warm fall here in Maryland, aside from that one late-October blip with the snowstorm.  Because it did get cold for a while, and more recently we've been seeing springlike temps in the 60s with drops into the 30s at night, but no significant frosts, some plants are getting confused.  On a walk through a local neighborhood last week, I passed a cherry tree in bloom (you just want to yell at it, "No!  Pull them back in!  You'll be sorry!").

Long autumns are great for getting caught up on gardening chores, or so the theory goes.  This weekend I did get all the leaves (for values of "all" that mean "really it's good for the lawn if you leave a few") raked up in front, some of them pushed into adjacent beds to protect plants, those new perennials in particular, and others collected into a large heap near the veggie garden, to be used as bed cover and/or compost as needed.  I also moved the bags of manure into the back part of the garden to weigh down the large sheets of cardboard that are hopefully smothering weeds until I get around to forming beds and mulching around them.  And I built a little fence around the cryptomeria because some %^(&! deer had been rubbing his antlers on it and scraping off branches in the process.  Also built the fence around the pomegranate that I will later stuff with leaves (another use for them!).  When it actually gets cold.

That's not all I needed to do, but it's something, and I guess I need some unfinished tasks to worry about in the dead of winter, if we have one this year.

I think we have reached the point in the fall where planting anything else is getting seriously chancy, so I can legitimately plan for next year without considering running out to a garden center and buying stuff I can't afford anyway.  I have been looking, discontentedly, at the beds outside the kitchen window, and thinking it's time for a redesign, for values of "redesign" that mean "not much design going on there in the first place, and are you likely to change that, Ms. Improvisational Gardening?"

This is what it looks like in part, in the spring.  I took photos in order to ask my fellow Master Gardeners what the heck to do about

the solid mass of enormous bleeding hearts in the bed against the house, because really if you have this knowledge base at hand why not use it, and it amused them for a time.  I have now planted black cohosh and angelica to get tall among the b.h.'s next spring (I hope) and Japanese anemones and hardy begonias to take over for them in the fall (as did happen in part this year), so we'll see what happens.

The rest of it, though... the mixed shrubs to the right as I look out the window are okay, I guess, though putting a buddleia there was silly.  The larger bed on the other side of the path is a mess of waning tulips, decent lilies, columbines spreading into the driveway, and a bunch of other things all squeezed together, including a lot of echinacea that ignores its chance to be strong in the middle of the bed and instead prefers to grow right along the flagstone path or perhaps in it.  I'm always cutting it down or digging it out, and if I didn't enjoy watching the goldfinches eat the seeds in the fall while I wash dishes, I'd get rid of it altogether.  But I think I need to be strong and move it elsewhere.  This should probably be a slightly more formal bed and also one that screens us from the driveway we share with neighbors.  So perhaps evergreen shrubs; I could start with the (still tiny) Japanese plum yew that I seem to have acquired for a ridiculously low price, assuming it survives the brutal winter in a pot on the deck.

Things to dream about when the winds freeze and the snow falls... which will happen any time now, right?  Right? (Though no snow until after December 10, please; we have one son flying home and another playing Bob Cratchit and no one needs to get stuck anywhere.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A rose by any other name

I'm sure it's a gardening sin to be attracted to a plant because of its name, rather than by its more horticulturally significant characteristics.  If so, it's a sin I commit frequently, or at least I lust after those plants in my heart even if prudence wins out.  (Or Pruden's Purple.)

We've had a couple of discussions over on Grow It Eat It about tomato varieties that have or haven't coped well with growing conditions this year.  Several people (including me) have done well with Speckled Roman, which is the oval-shaped tomato to the left in the photo.  Isn't it pretty?  (Being attracted to food plants because of their appearance is another failing of mine.)  They show up very well in the garden, are tasty and solid-fleshed, good for slicing and making sauces, and cope reasonably well with dire summers and brown marmorated stink bugs, though I did have some blossom end rot issues with them for a while.

Anyway, the point is that part of the initial attraction for me in Speckled Roman was the name, perhaps in this case not its own name so much as that it's bred from two varieties I've never grown but like the sound of, Banana Legs (which is just pleasantly whimsical and fun) and Antique Roman (which is a quote from Hamlet).  I wonder about people who name plant varieties sometimes, often with admiration and occasionally with horror, and hug to myself the idea that I might someday get to name one myself, except that I'd probably freeze up and not be able to think of anything clever, and end up like children who call pets Blackie or Spot.  (Neither of which would be a good name for a tomato.)  When I was very small I had a goldfish named Silly (I presume due to its highly amusing excretory functions; my mother will correct or confirm) and I don't think I was allowed to name pets for... oh, there were the gerbils.  No one could have named all those gerbils cleverly.

But anyway.  Speckled Roman came out well; less successful was the tulip Surprise, which was of course purchased because of Patrick O'Brian.  I don't have a photo of it handy, and it's not sold anymore, but it was a perfectly handsome orange tulip of the sort that starts red and yellow with stripes that sort of merge into each other as it ages.  Lovely, except that it clashed horribly and surprisingly with my magnolia that is either Anne or Jane and has big purple-pink flowers and blooms at the exact same time behind the orange tulips.  Tulips, we are supposed to inform people, do not perennialize well in this region (except for species types); well, ha.  The secret to getting perennial tulips is to plant ones that clash horribly with something else in your garden.  These lasted a good ten years after being planted in about eight inches of mostly clay; I think they may send up leaves this year but no flowers, and I hope they die and stay dead.  (I've had others last almost as long, actually; the Triumph type is particularly good at hanging on.)

I am also rather prone to flowers named after people I like (or make up *mumbleIrishistroidesGeorge*).  Never been tempted by the roses named after First Ladies; did seriously consider Hosta 'Captain Kirk'.  Because! They got the colors! Almost right.

I'm sure I have more examples of the name fallacy hanging around, but must run...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Goodnight sweet quince

Today I cut down my quince tree (which I apparently have no photos of, oh well).  I put it in spring before last, in great hopes of eventually getting a crop of this very useful fruit that hardly anyone plants.  Well, the reason hardly anyone plants it (and the Agricultural Research Service confirms this) is that it's very subject to fire blight, a nasty bacterial disease that (assuming you catch it in time) results in having to prune the tree back severely and unattractively (it's called the "ugly stub method" for a reason) with no guarantee that the leaf-blackening, tree-weakening menace won't come back.  My tree got it two years in a row; I did do the proper pruning to the best of my ability this summer (it's hard to prune eight inches below the point of evident disease when the branches aren't that long), but I suspect I would have to fight it off for many years to come, and I am just not willing to undergo that kind of battle.  It would probably also get cedar-quince rust, since there are Eastern red cedars in the area, not to mention a bunch of other things one has to spray for and I prefer not to.

In its place I planted the little serviceberry that's been languishing in a pot for too long; I hope it grows.  Serviceberry, being part of the same family as quince, apple, and pear, also can get fire blight, but it's not nearly as subject to it, and I did clean up very well when I pruned the quince, so bacteria shouldn't be lurking.  I should be able to do something with the berries if the birds don't eat them all, and I can buy quinces at a few places locally in the fall, if I have the urge to cook with them or make jam or chutney.

I also cleaned a lot of the rampant lamb's ear and Japanese honeysuckle out of the surrounding bed, which is slowly being converted from a congested perennial bed to a shrub bed with perennial edges, shared between neighbors.  (The serviceberry will be a shrub; it's got two stems now and wants to keep suckering at the bottom, so I'm going to let it.)  In the front of the bed, where I took out a bunch of deer-pruned daylilies to plant them on the Way Back Slope, I put in the rest of the daffodils along with three caryopteris and three amsonia (on sale from Park's), thus hopefully providing some unity to my usual "buy one of whatever I like" non-design method.  (Or otherwise acquire it.  The lilac there was a sucker from another plant, and the butterfly bush I grew from seed.)  When I'm done with the weeding I'll rake in most of the leaves fallen from the maple tree to smother winter weeds, and then turn my attention to whatever else I can get done in the back of the vegetable garden before full and honest winter.

Hopefully there will be pictures in the spring; they'd be pretty boring now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blooms in the waning sunlight

My first Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on this new blog!  And it's... November.  Hm.

Well, let's see what we've got.  More than expected, really.  Including... snowdrops.

Okay, guys, whenever you want to bloom is fine with me.  Just some of you try to wait until February, hm?

I'm always impressed by how long into the fall roses keep blooming.  I am not really a rose person; I caved and bought my first Knockout this year (the yellow one, which is not blooming at the moment), because I've reached the point in my life where I can declare that easy-care roses are all I'm going to manage.  This is one of the last blooms from my Bonica shrub roses, which are very reliable, though even they got some blackspot this year.  But it was an awful year.

Abelia is another reliable bloomer well into the fall.  If there were any bees about today (it was 65 degrees, so there might just have been), they would be visiting.

I think this combination is working (abelia, osmanthus 'Goshiki', and a euphorbia someone passed on to me).  With fallen leaves and miscellaneous dead sticks I probably should have removed before photographing.

A few more tattered flowers:  Japanese anemone, one last gasp...

... and rue, in the herb bed.

A couple of things that are not flowers, or not anymore:  spent goldenrod, with red maple in background...

(oh my, I am going to have a lot of goldenrod plants to thin out next year)
Viburnum 'Mohawk' leaves, turning colors.

Happy November blooms!  We'll see if I have anything in December...

(GBBD is actually tomorrow, but I'm posting now in case anything awful happens to my computer while calibrating my new battery.  I'll link in when Carol's post at May Dreams Gardens goes up.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Great moments in journalism

Actual headline on (admittedly short) story in this morning's Washington Post:


Run for your lives; it's windy in the fall.

My cat! on the Internet!

All right, I know this is not a unique circumstance.  But come on, a whole blog about cats in gardens?  You know you want to.

Gobi is here - and Kathy would love your cat photos if you got 'em.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And yet more planted!

First, the dawn redwood has its fall color (needles to the left) and I think when the ginkgo is larger it will be a very lovely combination.  Not that it's not now, just kind of unbalanced.

Now that the back slope is semi-planted, and the new evergreens are in, I can turn my attention, such as it is, to the rough patch that lies more or less on the property line between us and the next-door neighbors.  (More or less is all we can say; these are old houses and the deeds tell us to measure from stones that aren't there any more or from the railroad tracks which are twenty feet wide.  The two families get along very well, which is a good thing.)  We've traditionally used this area, which is under a line of maple and black walnut trees, for piling brush and logs that never became firewood (neighbors used to have this awesome Guy Fawkes Day party), and then last winter when we had trees taken down, a lot of it went into a chipper and became the mulch that I was slithering in on the back slope a few posts back.  There are still rotting logs and lots of vines and roots and weeds, but the soil is lovely.

I have always meant to plant some native shrubs along there, and did in fact put in a Carolina allspice years ago, which has had to fight its way along between strangling vines and dumped Christmas trees, but is still alive.  Now I hope to get somewhere with this project.  I grabbed three winterberry hollies at American Plant's 40% off sale, and have now cleared enough space and got them planted.  They are Southern Gentleman and his two Winter Red consorts; the females are the ones with berries and need a male pollinator.

(If this sort of thing makes you snigger, and who isn't occasionally prone to that, you might amuse yourself (if you can tolerate 18th-century poetry) by reading The Loves of the Plants by Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles), which is based on Linnaeus's system of taxonomy as derived from plants' sexual parts, and goes along like this:
With charms despotic fair CHONDRILLA reigns
 O'er the soft hearts of five fraternal swains;
 If sighs the changeful nymph, alike they mourn;
And, if she smiles, with rival raptures burn.
So, tun'd in unison, Eolian Lyre!
Sounds in sweet symphony thy kindred wire;
Now, gently swept by Zephyr's vernal wings,
Sink in soft cadences the love-sick strings;
And now with mingling chords, and voices higher,
Peal the full anthems of the aerial choir.
Which apparently is by way of saying that in flowers of the genus Chondrilla there is one female unit (pistil) to five male units (stamens), that the male parts are confederate, or linked at the top, and that everyone has a good time together.  Both Linnaeus and Darwin were considered quite racy.)

Where was I?  Oh, yes, winterberries.  So they are planted; here's one in a bad photograph:

They get 6-8 feet in every dimension and are deciduous with persistent berries.  The birds eat the berries, but leave enough for winter display.

Winterberries at the MoCo MG's demo garden a couple of winters ago -->

A real wow factor, bird food, and native, plus the benefit of chuckling about plant sex!  What could be better?

I'll put the viburnums back there as well, next spring when things are cleaned up a bit more, and we'll see what else I can come up with.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Please help save D. Landreth Seed Company

The Landreth Seed Company, America's oldest still in operation (since 1784, people!) is in dire straits and needs your help.  They need to sell 225,000 catalogs by December 15 to pay off creditors and stay in business.  If you can spare $5 to buy a catalog, even if you have no intention of ordering seeds, it would help.  Then pass the word along!

I'm on the run this morning, so I'm just going to link to my friend Michael's post to provide all the details.  Thank you!

In which I eat yacon and dahlia tubers

Grow It Eat It post, here.

(This seems generally easier than reposting the entire thing.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Gingko and the Chair

Nothing we do in life, including gardening, is done completely alone and without influences.  This is particularly true if one has imaginative children.

This is our ginkgo tree.  It was planted about 15 years ago when our son Nick was a dinosaur-obsessed first-grader, and I decided to create a garden of plants that existed when the dinosaurs were alive.  We also planted the dawn redwood and the magnolia (one of the first flowering plants of the Cretaceous, although obviously not in a USNA-developed cultivar form) in the Way Back at that time, and then never got any further with the project, and Nick's interest in giant prehistoric beasts waned.  But the trees are still there.

You'll note that the ginkgo has two trunks.  It's had a tough life, okay?  I don't want to deny it any sort of happiness.  It was never the hardiest specimen (the sort of potted sapling you don't buy unless you are determined to acquire that particular species) and it suffered in several summers of drought after planting, eventually losing the growing tip.  Then a tree fell on it (that was Hurricane Isabel's fault).  I was sure it was a goner until we pulled the branches away and found it was basically undamaged.

After that (the shock, I'm sure) it did settle in and start to grow, in the more shrubby form you see now.  If I was a good arborist, I'm sure I would have eliminated one of those trunks, since eventually it'll turn into the sort of tree that splits down the middle, but I hate to discourage its second wind.  I'm tempted to leave those branches coming out of the base, too, but I'll probably prune them off.

Ginkgos have a lovely fall color; the others in the area have already turned, but ours is just starting; the warm green of the summer leaves is brightening into spring green before turning yellow.

The other influence Nick's had on the Way Back Revival is more recent.  This is The Chair.  He constructed this as a project for a high school art class and exhibition.  It's made out of bits of two-by lumber, and there's no scale in the photo, but it's throne-sized, four feet or more in each dimension.  After we brought it home, it sat on the front porch for years (Nick is now in his fourth year at college studying architecture) until I finally said "enough!" and this summer we moved it (in pieces) to a back corner of the property.  It is going to be a Goldsworthy-like art object returning slowly to nature.  So far it is collecting leaves and pieces of black walnut husks (the squirrels enjoy it), and a multiflora rose is attempting to climb it, but that will Not Be Allowed.  I wouldn't mind other vines, though, and I'd thought of spraying it with pulverized moss and buttermilk, which is supposed to then grow moss all over if you keep it moist for a while.  Didn't get to that yet, so I suppose in the spring.

My younger son is an actor (I have not built an amphitheatre yet) and a photographer, in which second capacity he records rather than inspires, though we do get a lot of this sort of thing -->

(That's the shell of a pumpkin; the insides had already been scooped out for cooking.)

Then there is the cat, who just says "you built this salad table for Me" and graciously takes possession.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How gardeners watch TV

screenshot from ABC
Last night I checked out the first two episodes of the new ABC show "Once Upon a Time," about fairy tale characters with amnesia living in a small Maine town.  It's quite fun, but I couldn't help noting, when Evil Queen/Mayor Regina brings a basket of apples to Emma's door, and claims they are from her Honeycrisp tree, that they look a lot more like Red Delicious.

And the tree is suspiciously pristine-looking; and I wouldn't wear that outfit in Maine in September or October when either of those apple varieties would be ripe.

Please tell me I'm not the only gardener who watches plants on the small or big screen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November colors

Marina di Chioggia squash, with gourds, as Halloween decoration.  No, I did not grow them (Comus Market and Butler's).  The little chip out of the green gourd is thanks to a squirrel - that was yesterday, and today the same or a similarly-minded squirrel came by, and the other "eye" is completely gone.  Oh well.  They know us too well by now... end of October, snacks on the front porch!  Somewhere in the "archives" (notice how that goes in quotes.  Oh, to organize the photos someday) we have a squirrel-buried-head-deep-in-squash collection (I'll post them here if I find them).  They really like the seeds, and I suppose the flesh provides vitamins.  We have a very healthy squirrel population.

So, anyway, I went around yesterday taking pictures of autumn leaves, as one does, and the variety is quite satisfying, though if we didn't have as much space we could get the same variety just by growing sweetgum.  Green, orange, yellow, red, purple, and various combinations thereof, with speckles, all on one tree at one time!  Never mind that it has a nasty girdling root we really have to deal with, shades the vegetable garden, and drops annoying little hedgehog-balls (though I mention that only because people who have the trees in their front yards complain about them.  They don't bother me).  Sweetgum is the fish pepper of trees, and you can go look that up if you don't know what it is, though I will certainly have more to say on the subject later.

I'm also quite fond of our red maple, which is the October Glory cultivar, meaning of course that it is most spectacular in November.  (Around here.  I am generously concluding that it was developed up north.)

And while we're on red leaves, I try to mention to everyone who wants to grow fruit and knows that all edible plants are ugly and you have to tuck them into a plant ghetto where no one can see them, that really blueberries are rather nice in many seasons.  (Ha ha, tongue in cheek (I never know whether people can tell).  The only reason to ghettoize edible plants, and it's more like installing them in a gated community, is to keep away the deer, groundhogs, rabbits or whatever you have a problem with, which is done with a Fence A Bit Better Than The One You Put In™, or to keep away the birds, which is done with Bird Entrapment Netting, or to keep away the squirrels, which is done with a very good imagination.  Birds only eat about a quarter of my landscape blueberries, and no, I don't know why nor can I replicate it for you.)

There's a nice discussion of why leaves turn color in autumn here.  I was aware that with abscission (signaled by day length changes) the chlorophyll that makes leaves green is blocked, and therefore the other pigments in the leaves are revealed; that's true of xanthophylls, which make yellow, and carotenoids, which make orange.  What I didn't know was that anthocyanins, which make red and purple, are not present in the leaves all year; they're only manufactured from the sugars trapped in the leaves at abscission.  As if they had eaten too much Halloween candy, I suppose.

Aside from pigments, the other thing that gets revealed, a little later in the process when the leaves entirely fall off, is the branch structure of the plant.  Flesh dropping off to reveal the skeleton, very Día de los Muertos.  This one's a magnolia shrub (one of the "Little Girl" series, and it is either Anne or Jane and I don't remember which; the other one is out back), and one revelation was that it has apparently suckered or layered or whatever it does best, and there are a couple of new plants under there which I might well be able to dig up and transplant somewhere else.  Hurray, free plants.

The other magnolia (either Jane or Anne) actually has a cat buried under it, so there you are.  Skeletons.  The nice thing about plant skeletons is that usually they reacquire the covering of leaves in spring (barring... you know), but it's refreshing to see what's underneath for a while.