Bucks County Herald

Elizabeth Ludlow Bowman: Tips for the Compleat Gardener

Tornado warning

Lantana blooms into fall.

Just as the second day of November was morphing into the third some kind of alarm went off and people were trying to wake up enough to find the source when it ceased.

In the morning we learned it was a tornado warning on our cell phones. I don’t know how close a call it was but lots of leaves are down today, a front passing through. These days we never seem to know from which direction changes are coming.

As I drove to the farmers market in Wrightstown Sunday my breath was taken by some of the color combinations of leaves remaining on trees.

There are many trees like hickory, walnut and ash that have no autumn splendor in their nature; leaves just turn brown-yellow and fall, leaving the late show-stoppers to catch our eyes.

It is said that the color we see today is the true color of the leaf of that tree after the green of photosynthesis dissipates, a concept it can be hard to wrap your head around, as it were. Does one have to think deeply on the mechanism for such a metamorphosis or just simply enjoy?

The usual colors are fiery reds, gold and oranges and in the realm of Eastern thought represent the first three Chakras or energy centers of the body, red for the connection to earth and tribe, orange for intuition, your gut feelings and appetite, and gold for your power center, the solar plexus. There are people who can perceive light emanating from objects and to them we are each a rainbow. Whatever you perceive it is an individual experience.

For me, standing under a leaf roof of orange and yellow makes me feel invigorated, gasping for breath with the intensity of the light filled with those colors. It is a good thing that the splashes of foliage are here and there and not everywhere because some of us might explode in the energy. The russet tones calm the soul, transition between orange and red where the intuition meets the tribe (in Eastern philosophy sort of).

Pure red is infrequent in the fall landscape found in the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) that hangs off the naked trees, each leaf five fingers like a hand; the birds love the dark blue berries. The native dogwood (Cornus florida) has dark red foliage and bright red berries enjoyed by migrating birds for the fatty nutrition, especially cardinals.

In shrubs the winterberry (Ilex verticillata) puts on a winter-long show of bright red berries which feed wood thrushes, catbirds, robins and more in late winter when berries soften. This is a native shrub and when you plant it in your landscape you need male and female for fruit, allegedly one male can fertilize up to six female shrubs with the help of bees, and the winter show is worth the effort.

This is the time of year when the gardener or homeowner should go look around nurseries or arboretums to see what the fall foliage is on native species. Your landscape can have a second show if you plant with fall foliage and berries in mind, plus you can support nature with appropriate food in a timely fashion. Enjoy the moment.



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