November 2013 Cuttings

"Cuttings" is your source for garden updates and horticultural tips from Reeves-Reed Arboretum's horticulture staff. Check back monthly to find out what's blooming at the Arboretum, get the inside scoop on upcoming events, and learn some timely tips you can put to use in your own garden.

Fall Color in the Gardens

Looking back on the previous two years' Cuttings for November, which were both about freak storms and damages suffered in the gardens and woods, we're all breathing a collective sigh of relief that this autumn has been mild and beautiful. Whew! The last of the storm damaged trees has been cleared from our woodlands, opening up new opportunities for replanting and natural forest regeneration. With all the new light and air flooding in, it will be interesting to see what slumbering volunteers awaken to populate our woods in the coming years. Stay tuned for that!

Speaking of trees, fall color is at its peak and our prized Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is leading the show. Ordinarily the fallen leaves would disappear when the lawns are mowed but we decided to leave them for our annual Celebrate Fall event and they've now created a leafy mosaic of warm autumn color on the ground. Kids love to toss them and they make a satisfying autumnal crunch underfoot when walked over. If you're looking to extend fall color in your garden (and are tired of raking), why not consider leaving the leaves for a week or two?

Leaves in autumn colors carpet the ground beneath our Sugar Maple.

Our Sugar Maple in full autumn glory

A carpet of fall leaves

Fall is also a good time for routine tree care as many trees are going dormant, such as the Tulip Poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera). Tulip trees are fast growers, and reach straight up into the sky which is why Native Americans used their trunks to make canoes. The stately Tulip tree next to our pond was just given a little trim and some smaller branches were shaken loose. Being so tall, it's not often that the flowers are easily seen (they do look like tulips!) but now that the petals are gone, the branches are covered with flowers of a different kind – the seed arrays. Each flower leaves behind a cone-shaped aggregate of winged seeds called samaras that flutter to the ground when they fall. Still attached to the branch, they look like woody autumn flowers (and make a great addition to a seasonal arrangement indoors).

The seed array from a Tulip Poplar that looks like a woodsy flower

Even though the garden is exhaling (as one garden writer put it), there is still lots of color and texture and even some blooms offering seasonal interest. Sometimes instead of looking down at the ground, you just need to look up to see it!