November-r-r-r is the last month of fall and the transition into winter. It has a palette of colors all its own. Many of our trees are now leafless with the baldcypress holding orange-brown (far right and left of the above photo). The prairie grasses have bleached to blond and the skies are more often gray.
Many of our native oaks cling to their dead leaves; refusing to lose them until new buds force them off next spring. Here White Oak (left) and three Pin Oaks in the Visitor Education Center's parking lot show their winter colors. Dead leaves that cling to a deciduous tree are called marcescent. On rare occasion we can have a "marcescent fall"--if a severe cold snap kills the leaves before they color and drop. That has happened once in the past 12 years that I have worked at Powell Gardens.
A beam of sunlight illuminated one of the sweetgums in the parking lot. Glorious full fall attire! A few trees still retain good fall color.
Cool season annuals have thrived as long as they were covered during our one night of hard freeze (25F). These snapdragons and mums in front of the entrance sign have maintained their beauty in our recent cool weather.
Mums, pansies and violas in the window box of the Gatehouse have also thrived and are great choices for cool season color. These pansies and violas may bloom through the whole winter if it is mild; otherwise they should make a return to glory next March.
This is literally looking out the window behind my computer. The bright berries of the possumhaws (Ilex decidua) make these large shrubs come alive on cloudy days. They remind me of red-flowering trees only their color last for longer than any flower. The possumhaws also attract many birds in winter: often guarded by a mockingbird, Eastern bluebirds sneak fruit as they can and a flock of Cedar Waxwings can overwhelm the berries' guardian. Usually all the fruit are gone by mid-winter as they have sustained many feathered friends. What better way to enliven the winter landscape?
Here is an image without screens to the bountiful berries of the possumhaw. Unfortunately this large shrub/small tree has fallen out of landscape favor but remains a plant promoted under Missouri's Grow Native! program. It will never be popular in garden centers because it doesn't beg one to buy it in spring. Of course the depicted plants are female plants, a male plant is needed nearby as a pollinator. The four seedlings planted outside my office window luckily turned out to be three females and one male. We planted a lone female in the Perennial Garden way back and it set fruit; we soon discovered a native male tree in the woodland off to the side! Possumhaw can be found occasionally wild on the grounds of Powell Gardens.
This possumhaw near the Gatehouse has berries that are tinted orange and actually become more orange as the berries age. Usually possumhaws are bright red but there are known yellow-berried cultivars.
The late foliage, fruits and berries under often ruddy skies of this month are really a uniquely beautiful part of our yearly garden experience. Be sure and take the time to observe the season's innate beauty. The outdoor experience and fresh air will do you good!