Sunday, November 18, 2012
Shades of Green
Weather: Cold mornings; last rain 11/10/12; 10:10 hours of daylight today.
What’s still green: Juniper, red hot poker, yucca, Madonna lily, Japanese honeysuckle, Saint John’s wort, vinca, moss phlox, soapworts, sea pink, pink and yellow primroses, sweet pea, snapdragon, beardstongues, gypsum phacelia, alfilerillo, horseweed, Shasta daisy.
What’s red/turning red: Apple and apricot branches.
What’s grey or blue: Snow-in-summer, pinks leaves, Silver King artemisia.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia, petunias.
Animal sightings: Small brown birds.
Weekly update: Tuesday morning it was 15 on my front porch; mornings stayed below 20 most of the week. Evening skies were causally clear, the stars brilliant. Anything that survived is part of that nether world of winter plants who have a different metabolism than everything surrounding it.
The winter annual weeds, or biennials as some like to call them, are still there. The horseweed stalks were killed, but not the basal leaves.
The yellow evening primroses, that spent the summer hiding as a coral beardstongues, have revealed themselves, now that it’s too late to do anything until spring. By then, of course, their taproots will have insinuated themselves deep into the garden.
The cold loving perennials used the long fall, with its clearly defined gradients of coolness, to put out new leaves. The California poppies grew bushy, but their stems collapsed this week. Not so the snow-in-summer. The sub-sub-sub-alpines love this weather, and only tolerate the summers.
The sweet peas that died out in July, and only grudgingly came back when they got more water, are still there. The clump still hasn’t grown much, but neither has it retreated. It doesn’t even bother to say, “Next year will be different.” It’s been around too long to do anything but harumph.
Likewise, the snapdragons. The bedding plants never do much: if they come in bud, they release those flowers, then pout for the rest of the summer. Come fall, they muster their energy and bloom like they were advertised. Well not quite as advertised: there’s no great spike, only single flowers that follow one another for a few weeks. I wonder where they actually perform like advertised; it can’t be in a warm greenhouse. And now, they hint, maybe, if things go well, they’ll be around next spring and reward me for not pulling them up in disgust. Maybe. Then again, when it finally snows they may succumb.
Members of the olive and rose families spent the fall more productively. Next year’s buds now are visible on the apples, the Bradford pear, the cherries and the peaches. The privets produced shiny black berries, and only now are dropping their leaves. The forsythia kept its dead leaves as long as it dared, but now they are dropping. In their place, the debut of the next years leaves.
The annual grasses turned ecru long ago and released their seeds. Tops on the native needle grass have died, but the bases still are green.
The counterintuitive cheat grass germinated in the fall, and now is bright green. I’ve learned to live with it. The blades all may die in spring, but they work in winter, protecting the ground around the roses where no other live mulch has taken hold. Of all the winter weeds, they are the easiest to remove in spring.
Photographs: All taken 16 November 2012
1. Grey California poppy collapsed with the cold.
2. Next year’s buds on Bradford pear.
3. Basal horseweed leaves.
4. Yellow evening primrose leaves.
5. Grey snow-in-summer with darker, more linear pink leaves.
6. Sweet pea leaves.
7. Snapdragon leaves and opened seed capsules.
8. This year’s dead leaves and next spring’s buds on forsythia.
9. Base of needle grass clump.
10. Cheat grass.
11. Tansy, the last flower of the season; it’s head has browned a little; some of the leaves are turning colors before dying brown.