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The End of Fall

Fall clings to the landscape, though the leading edge of winter has arrived here in Helena. Icy winds have stripped most deciduous trees of their color, if not entirely of their leaves, and many plants are dormant, vital under the comfort of the soil but leaving brown carcasses of their former selves above.

I have watched the end come, watched the colors blaze and then fade. Changes have come quickly over the past two weeks.

Acer palmatum dissectum 'Seiryu' was the last Japanese maple to show its fall colors, and even now this tree is brilliant against the drab colors of its neighbors.

Other Japanese maple leaves are barely holding to their branches or are already fallen:

After several hard frosts, some knockout roses in the herb bed still bloom. Here is what they looked like only two weeks ago:

During the week of Thanksgiving the woodland garden was bordered in warm shades of gold and tan:

The Japanese maple 'Orido Nishiki" was a blaze of color over the blue bridge:

This week there were sharp shadows in the cold air of the woodlands. Colorful leaves still clung to 'Orido Nishiki', contrasting with the bright green of the moss path. I think after this weekend they will be gone.

Southern magnolia leaves stand out against the trunks and branches in the woodlands behind them. I will use leaves like these in some of my Christmas decorations:

The end of fall is not ugly. There is a stark beauty in naked limbs and dried seed heads, and there is still plenty of color in evergreen foliage and winter blooms and berries:1st row: Camellia 'Leslie Ann'; Nandina domestica. 2nd row: Decorative kale; Daphne odora 'Marginata'. 3rd row: Viburnum carlesii, fall foliage; Old azalea, unknown variety. 4th row: Rose hip, 'Penelope'; Skeletal remains of onion chives.

Winter may stamp out the last of fall tonight, as temperatures fall far below freezing. I won't be sad. I have a new coat, and I know this is true: We play with winter here. We build fires in our fireplaces and eat hot homemade soup. We celebrate Christmas and New Years and watch lots of football. We wonder if there may be snow. We curl up with our lovers, and if there is no lover there is always a good book or movie. We sometimes complain as much as Northerners, who know winter in its truest and harshest form, but in a couple of months we'll be talking about spring. And that is something to look forward to!

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Reader Comments (16)

Your woodland looks so mellow and warm, very autumnal. Nice to see, after so many shots from midwesterners and others buried in snow! In southern New England we are as yet snow free, but everything looks gray, not rich and golden like your shots.

December 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

Hi Deb,
I enjoyed your post. I "talk" on my blog, but recognize writers when I read their blogs. You have a nice way with words, and your photos illustrate them beautifully.

December 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCorner Garden Sue

Hi Deb,

Lovely photos, now if only we sitll had colour here... Sadly it's long gone now thanks to the snow.

I hope you have all your Christmas shopping done! We got our tree today, I'm just waiting for the branches to drop before I attempt to decorate it. Oh how exciting! :)

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Dear Deb - Snap with Sei-Ryu! it is my prize container Acer and turned the most gorgeous plum before its final leaf fall. Your garden held the autumn colours longer than here in the UK but now winter has brought your tree skeletons into focus. Time to appreciate the barks! Lovely winter collage of form and colour

Laura x

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatioPatch

I agree, the end of fall is beautiful in your garden! Love those scenes punctuated by your footbridge. Everything is just so perfect, from the mossy ground to the turquoise handrails. Here, fall is just beginning (albeit earlier than usual), and we are actually seeing some beautiful hues down here in Central Florida. Of course, we don't have the lovely Japanese Maples dotting our landscapes, but the red maples an red oaks at least will grow here.

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFloridagirl

Your garden provides an endless amount of beauty, and your writing is lovely!

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSweetbay

Really pretty images extending the season. The beautiful color is long gone here, so it is great to see it in your neck of the woods. Spring will come soon it seems at least by all the blogs showing bulbs. I can't decide, spring or fall, which is the prettiest?

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

What lovely fall colors you have there, long after ours are gone!

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobinL

So, so beautiful ... there is indeed nothing at all ugly about your Autumn. Loved all your photos ... it's a truly stunning landscape you are surrounded by there! Fabulous writing, as always ... it's a joy to pop in!

December 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBernieh

Great post. How true that the end of fall is here. This morning the temps in the single digits! In my 10 years in Alabama, have not seen the weather this cold this early. Brrrrr.

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Yes we can be and should be philosophical about it!
Seems like you make the most of it.
We moan here, about very little!
Love that sweet little bridge.

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Webber

That looks so inviting... hard to believe that is how my yard looked only a couple weeks ago. It's fairly drab today. Your turquoise bridge is adorable! Very nice against the warm toned leaf photos.

December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEliza

beautiful photos of the end of fall Deb! As a former northerner I'm going to say....HURRY UP SPRING!!! hahahahaha! I'm just waiting for that early season to come again and bring life to my yard!
Enjoy this brisk but fleeting season!

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEve

Autumn is so beautiful, yet so fleeting. Thank you for capturing it and sharing it with us.

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterToni - Signature Gardens

What a lovely celebration of Autumn colours. Your woodland garden is a magical place. I'm particularly struck by Leslie Ann, she looks absolutely gorgeous but then I'm always a sucker for camellias. Keep warm and have a wonderful festive season. Yan

December 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYan

The pictures of your park are wonderful. I've never found the end of autumn to be ugly, either. It is beauty in it's most empirical form - bare and completely exposed. To understand the complexity of summer beauty, with its layers of colors and ripeness, we need to appreciate the structure of winter beauty that allows it to happen. Great post, as usual!! :o)

December 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTS

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