Fall Color, At Last

“Fall Color, At Last”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Here in the Deep South, fall color is usually pretty pathetic.  We don’t have the hard woods that turn such lovely colors in more northern areas.  Also, we don’t usually have a cold snap that starts the leaves to change colors, and living at lower latitudes we still have a lot of sunlight.  Of course, we are not totally without some autumnal color.  Crapemyrtles and tallow trees will start turning in late November and will give us some reds and deep oranges.  Many years they can be quite striking, and then, other years their leaves just seem to turn brown and fall off.

Usually, green is still the dominate color down here all through the fall and winter.  Today, however, our Bradford pear finally showed its color.  It seemed very striking especially since it was an overcast day.   As I pulled in the driveway this afternoon, the bright leaves stood out against the gray sky.

 

 

 

Here it is, the middle of December, and we are just getting our fall color.  I have been drooling over the gorgeous fall pictures on other people’s blogs for months, finally with all the red and green of Christmas, we get our oranges and yellows.

 

 

 

 

I know Bradford pears are not considered good trees to plant because of their brittleness, but when I see them like this, I wish I would have planted more.

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A Jewel of a Seed

“A Jewel of a Seed”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Seeds are amazing.  A tiny embryonic plant and some stored food covered by a seed coat is all that is in a seed, but this is enough to insure that life goes on.  It often puzzles me that we don’t pay more attention to seeds.  Of course, there are those who gather seeds and sow them, those that buy their seeds to sow, and those that never bother with seeds at all.  I belong to the first two groups, but today I wanted to show off a very particular seed.

 

Mag Seed on Holly Fern (redu)

 

The above photo is a Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) seed that just happened to fall and land on a holly fern.  The drop of red on the dark green leaves caught my eye last Saturday. The shiny, bright red seed is about half an inch long and looks like a varnished bead or a semi-precious opaque jewel.  I have often wondered if it would be possible to make jewelry out of these pretty seeds.  I don’t think so because the seed is really encased in what I guess would be the fruit, and I am sure that would dry out too fast to last for jewelry or crafts.

Magnolias must be pretty easy to grow from seed because with just two in our yard, there are always a magnolia seedling showing up here and there.  At this time of year, these bright red seeds peeking out from their seedpods can really brighten up a deary fall day.  Something we often take for granted deserves a second look.

Changeable Rose Mallow

“Changeable Rose Mallow”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

I need to start looking up more.  This morning I was surprised to see that the Confederate Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) has started blooming.  I don’t know how I missed it Saturday, even though it has just started blooming.  The flowers are big – about eight to nine inches across.  I guess it is because I am rather vertically challenged and my Confederate Rose is now a tree so the flowers are up high.

 

Conf Rose -Early (redu)

 

The photo above was taken early in the morning.  These flowers start out a pale pink and gradually darken to a deep pink by afternoon, hence the mutabilis part of the botanical name.  While I like the color of the flowers, it is the fact that they show up in autumn just when the garden needs a jolt of color.

 

Conf Rose -Late (redu)

 

The second photo was taken later in the day and shows the darkening of the earlier paler pink color.  The different colors can show up all at the same time if some flowers are in the sun and others are in the shade. 

Today, was off-and-on rainy day.  When we have a dry day, I’ll post a photo of the whole tree in bloom.  It really is something to see.

In the Pink

“In the Pink”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

Since I wrote yesterday about the pink cashmere bouquet in the side garden, I thought I would continue in the “pink” theme and show a few other plants that are now blooming there.  One of my favorites that is blooming right now is the pink vitex tree.

 

Pink Vitex (redu)

 

This is only the third summer that this small tree has been in the garden, but it is growing nicely.  (I do have the more common purple variety about thirty feet away from this pink one, but the purple flowers have not opened yet.)  I love the soft pink color of the flowers which offers a nice contrast to the nearby dark foliage of the lorepetlum shrubs.  This is also near the Blushing Knockout and Caldwell pink roses, and that placement helps repeat the pink color.

 

Blushing Knt (redu)

 

Caldwell Pink (redu)

 

Another pink flowering perennial a little farther down is the crinum.  Every year it gets bigger and puts out more flower stalks.  The flower clusters look like small amaryllis blooms.  There must be a dozen or more stalks already this year.

 

Crinum (redu)

 

And, of course, there are the hydrangeas.  The oak leaf hydrangeas are already a deep pink, and the mophead hydrangeas have just started showing their pink color.

 

Oakleaf Hydrangea (redu)

 

Hydrangea Bush (redu)

 

Just one of these large mophead hydrangea flowers would make a wonderful bridesmaid’s bouquet don’t you think?

 

Pink Mophead (redu)

 

There are still a few more of the pink-toned flowers yet to bloom in this area, and lest you think that everything is pink, I’ll be posting soon about the lavender and purple flowers that are interspersed to break up the pink.  But, for now, the pink garden is certainly coming into its own.

 

 

Love/Hate

“Love/Hate”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

When we moved into this house, there already was a large magnolia tree growing on the property.  The unfortunate part is it was planted about twelve feet from the front of the house and near the front entrance.  The magnolia is the quintessential tree of the South, and in the right spot is a lovely tree.  It has so many things going for it.

It is a tall stately tree which gives much needed shade during our hot summers.

 

magnolia-tree-redu

 

In spring time it has huge white flowers that are just so beautiful.

 

single-mag-flower-redu

 

double-mag-flowers-redu

 

It is just a wonderful, lovely tree.  Many people admire it and want one.  So, why do the people who own this big tree have a love/hate relationship with it?  Well, it really depends where it is planted.  Planted out in an open, sunny area where you do not care that there is no grass or flowers underneath, it is perfect.  But so often it is planted near a house, walkway or driveway and that is when the trouble starts.

First this tree is dropping something nine months out of the year.  It starts in early spring with the old, big, leathery leaves falling.  They fall for weeks.  They can be raked up and three hours later, it looks like your yard hasn’t been raked in weeks.  Case in point, the photo below is only four hours after I had raked up every leaf.

 

mag-leaves-redu

 

About half way into leaf drop season, the flowers begin to open.  This means the large papery bloom coverings fall off, then, as the flowers finish blooming, the big flower petals start falling.  This is followed by a short break of not having to pick up anything.  Then the seed pods begin to fall out the tree.  While these are not large, they are hard as rocks so you have to be sure not to run over them with a lawn mower.  Finally, the last thing to fall are the ripe seed pods with their glossy, bright red seeds showing.  These aren’t too bad, but you have to watch for stray magnolia seedlings. 

All of these problems are made worse for us because of the tree’s placement.  It is next to the house (leaves in the gutters), near the front entrance (have to keep raking up so house looks neat), and also, at the top of a circular driveway (large expanse of concrete makes leaves more visible). 

And, don’t even talk to me about surface roots.

So since this is the height of leaf raking season for me, I have not been having too many good thoughts about our Magnolia tree.  However, that did change last evening.  A thunderstorm came through, and as hubby and I were looking out the front door at the rain, we both noticed a small white object bounce on the driveway.  We both said at once, “Is that hail?”  Yes, it was.  Just as it started, I ran to the car that was parked in the open and moved it under the Magnolia tree.  The big, leathery leaves protected the car enough so that there was no damage. 

Now, this morning, I have a slightly different opinion of that tree than I had when I took the picture of all the fallen leaves.

A Heroic Tree

“A Heroic Tree”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

We don’t often think of plants as being heroic, but we have a cherry tree that saved our house.  During Hurricane Katrina, we had five big trees go down. Luckily, they all fell parallel to the house except one 150 foot pine tree, but even that tree missed the house because of our Kwansan cherry tree.  It deflected the big pine tree just enough so that it missed the house and ended up just hitting the corner of a gutter.  Unfortunately, the cherry tree was damaged, and had to be cut back.  With everything going on and debris removal happening fast, the cherry tree was just cut back to about two and a half feet.  It quickly started sprouting new growth, but was not very attractive.  I wanted to cut it back to the ground and let one of the suckers take over, but dear hubby wanted to keep it and give it a chance.

Kwansan cherry trees only live about twenty-five years, and ours is about thirty-two now.  It has never really recovered from that falling pine tree.  Every year it has fewer and fewer flowers with this year having the least.  I think this will be the last spring this particular tree gives us these beautiful pink flowers.

 

kwansan-cherry-redu

 

The little pink powder puff flowers that usually cover these trees are a welcome spring time addition, but  I think it is time to say good bye to this particular heroic little tree.  I know we can get a replacement tree for this area, but it just won’t be the same.

Proven Wrong

“Proven Wrong”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

About three years ago, dear hubby planted an avocado seed.  I told him it wouldn’t last the winter since this is a semitropical fruit at best.  He nursed that little seedling all winter, and it did survive the cold, proving me wrong.

The next summer, the little avocado seedling grew to about three feet tall, and he transplanted it into a large container.  Since he was moving a plant from a six inch pot to a twenty-four inch pot, I told him the new container was way too big, but he ignored me.  The little avocado tree grew to about five feet tall.

The next winter was spent trying to cover a five foot tree in about a three foot tall pot off and on as the temperature dipped and rose above freezing.  Dear hubby kept talking about having avocado fruit maybe the coming summer.  I just laughed and told him that avocado trees didn’t bear fruit here, besides it sometimes takes years for one to fruit according to what I have read.

Last summer the tree grew to about seven feet and was too tall to cover this winter.  DH just moved it to a rather sheltered location and hoped for the best.  It made it through this winter even though there were several hard freezes.

This spring, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The tree had flowers.

avocado-flower

Now, I have read that avocado trees usually need another tree to be pollinated, but after being proven wrong that this tree would even survive, much less grow and flower in three years, I won’t be surprised at all if there are avocados on the tree by summer.  At least DH has not gloated.

No Bradford

“No Bradford”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

More trees are starting to flower.  I have already posted about the peach trees, Japanese magnolias, redbuds, and now the Callery pear has started flowering, almost overnight it seems.  I know there are many who say that this tree should not be  planted, but come springtime and the appearance of the hundreds of small flowers it seems worth it.

 

 

brad-pear-flowers-redu

 

 

Our tree has just started flowering, and it won’t be long before it is covered in white flowers.  The most common cultivar of Callery pear is the Bradford, but I don’t think we have a Bradford.  I think we have another cultivar.  Our tree does not have the dense, upward growth of the Bradford.  Our tree has a more open pyramid growth pattern.  When we bought this tree, it was just labled flowering pear, but it was also about the time that people were being discouraged from planting the Bradfords, so for all these reasons, I don’t think we have a Bradford.

 

With the temperatures reaching 80 to 85 degrees for the last three days, it does seem that spring is here to stay, and this blooming pear tree just seems to reinforce that belief.

Pollen

“Pollen”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

 

Early, every spring, the pine trees start to shed their pollen.  If there is no rain, everything becomes covered in a light yellow dust.  It is just starting, but already there is pine tree pollen all over the cars; you can’t walk outside without your shoes quickly being covered in yellow; and even the cats are covered in yellow powder and leave tiny yellow footprints on the black slate floor.  With the weather turning warmer and pleasant, we won’t be able to open any windows or doors until this stuff stops falling.  The plants in the garden present a special problem.

 

 

Pollen-covered insect on pollen-covered rose leaves

Pollen-covered insect on pollen-covered rose leaves

 

 

 

The problem that occurs in the garden happens whenever water hits the pollen-covered plants.  When a light rain falls or when watering, if not enough water is used to completely wash the pollen off the leaves, the pollen puddles and sticks like glue.  There is simply no getting that stuff off.  There have been leaves on plants that still show signs of pollen at the end of summer, and that is after all our summer rains.  And, let me tell you, we get a lot of rain in the summer here.  After having this happen several years, I make sure to wash off the leaves of everything whenever I water, and if we only get a light rain, I make sure to rinse off the plants before they dry so that there will be no pollen residue sticking around marring the looks of the garden.
 
 
 
Luckily, pine pollen does not really bother many people. It might seem that pine tree pollen, which is produced in large amounts by a common tree, would make it a good candidate for causing allergy. It is, however, less allergenic than other plants, and a relatively rare cause of allergy. Because pine pollen is heavy, it tends to fall straight down from the tree and does not scatter in the wind, rarely reaching human noses. (www.umm.edu/careguides/000034.htm).  If your allergies are acting up, it is probably another plant that is blooming at the same time (oaks?) that is causing it.   
 
 
 

I know we need for nature to reproduce, and it is nice to have pine trees.  But it will be so nice when this pollen season is over because pine pollen certainly does make a mess of clothes, cars, animals, and houses.

Just Peachy

“Just Peachy”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

 

peach-blossom-redu

 

In other areas of the South there is very cold weather.   Yesterday there was snow in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, and it soon moved into the Upper South and beyond.  Here in the Coastal South, we had some cold, windy weather with temps almost reaching freezing last night. 

Today, the peach trees in the back garden started opening a few of their flowers with the promise of more to come.  It seems Mother Nature is not going to be deterred from bringing forth spring even though Old Man Winter is trying so hard to keep a strong grip on the weather.

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