A Touch of Scarlet

October 19, 2014  autumn 010

What is your favorite autumn color? 

A preposterous question, I know.  Sort of like, “Which is your favorite child?” or “Where is your favorite beach?”

Each autumn color has its own place in the progression, and its own astounding beauty.

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Just as the bare branches against a winter sunset display an elegance all their own.

But,  early in the season, I am always delighted to find a touch of scarlet amidst the still mostly green forest.

Euonymus alatus, known as Burning Bush, begins to turn scarlet in late summer.

Euonymus alatus, known as Burning Bush, begins to turn scarlet in early autumn.  These shrubs, common in our community, crop up as “volunteers” in wooded areas.  Originally imported from Asia, it is considered an invasive species in many areas along the East Coast of the United States.

 

Scarlet jumps out from the masses with its invitation to revel in the pleasures of autumn:  Fresh apples, freshly pressed cider, pumpkins, and woodsmoke on the evening breeze.

Birds enjoy the Euonymus berries, and we enjoy its scarlet leaves.

Birds enjoy the Euonymus berries, and we enjoy its scarlet leaves.

 

And much of the scarlet in our early fall landscape appears from the incidental “wild” things we might not even plant in our gardens:  Virginia  Creeper and other vines, Staghorn Sumac, “The Devil’s Walking Stick” tree, and native Dogwoods.

Dogwood

Dogwood berries feed migrating birds over many weeks.

 

I believe it is in some way a reward for allowing these wild native plants space in our gardens.

Even Poison Ivy turns scarlet each autumn.

Even Poison Ivy turns scarlet each autumn.  Although it creates a terrible rash when we touch it, Poison Ivy is an important plant for birds and nectar loving insects.

 

We  watch for these gorgeous reds as we drive around Williamsburg, deeply satisfied with every sighting of scarlet.

Virginia Creeper lights up this tree on the Colonial Parkway

Virginia Creeper lights up this tree on the Colonial Parkway

They preview the beauty about to unfold as our forests blaze into color.

We heard, earlier this week on the Weather Channel, that our  forecast for  peak fall color has been pushed back to early November this year.

That would be the latest ever for peak color in central Virginia; at least in modern times.

Staghorn Sumac sports scarlet leaves and burgundy berries.

Winged Sumac,  Rhus copallina, sports scarlet leaves and burgundy berries.

 

A friend and I discussed the strange autumn weather  as we inspected her Passiflora vine, showing new growth and tiny flower buds, this afternoon.

There are Paperwhite flowers already in full bloom on our street.  A strange sight indeed, this early in the season, before our first frost. 

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What has caused the strange timing of our seasons this year?  Is it the  pole shift?  Climate change?   Radiation in the atmosphere?

We are both keen observers of the unfolding seasons.

 

Pineapple sage lights up our garden in October.

Pineapple sage lights up our garden in October.

 

And we’re wondering whether it is still too early to plant our daffodil bulbs this year.  There’s talk of some afternoon temperatures close to 80 degrees for us next week….

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But some of the Sumacs have already dropped their leaves.  And the trees across the creek get a bit brighter with each passing day.

Looking across College Creek this morning, watching it get a bit brighter each day.

Looking across College Creek this morning, watching it get a bit brighter each day.

 

The Dogwood berries shine scarlet in the sunshine, and I have faith that this touch of scarlet will soon spread far and wide as autumn comes suddenly upon us once again.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Paperwhites in bloom on October 15.

Paperwhites in bloom on October 15.

 

Serendipity

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A Passionflower nodding out of a peach tree?

 

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How could that be?

 

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A wider perspective

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What an amazing vine, and what a beautiful surprise so late in the season.  Passiflora incarnata is naturalized all over the southeastern United States.   This perennial vine has had a phenomenal season, growing many many feet to first cover the deer fence, and now climb the peach tree. 

 

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The plant, dried, has been used to make tea.  It has a calming effect and can help treat insomnia. 

Native Americans and early settlers ate the fruit out of hand as you might an apple.  The fruit is still enjoyed today.  It is sometimes made into juice, and that juice can be cooked into jam and jelly.  Mostly, its flower brings a smile with its wild form and bright colors.  Especially when its found peeking out of a peach tree. 

 

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A serendipity:  A happy, unexpected surprise.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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