I Got Your November Colors Right Here!

November 24th, 2007 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

While Bostonians may retreat in the fall and winter into their brown or blue or black clothes, not all flora follows. A trip to the Arnold Arboretum today in 25-degree weather found several splashy, even garish, delights.

A week ago, I had returned to photograph the astounding bonsai collection in fall colors. I was disappointed to find an empty hut. The little joys has been spirited away for the winter. The arboretum folk have gotten pretty literal about the collection being on display until early November.

Pic Click Trick: Click on a thumbnail image for a larger view.

However, we were over today to see what’s outside and still colorful. We figured that as the Forest Hills Cemetery still has some reds and yellows of bush and tree, we’d find some there.

Korean mapleTwo visual assaults — in the best way — were on Bussey Hill. The Korean maple and the Japanese beautyberry, as Billy Crystal might say, looked mahvelous.

The maple astonishes in its electric pumpkin colors.

Here, we are prone to deride the yellows of the stalwart Norway maple. Many call it a trash tree, while extolling the virtues of that ultimate premature exfoliater, the sugar maple. The sugar maple does have many shades of red, orange and yellow, but it fairly flings off its leaves as though it can’t bear the beauty. In contrast, the relatively dowdy Norway maple displays its shades of many yellow for a month or more longer, seeming to strive to keep the sun in the sky during the late fall.

You might find the greatest traits of both in the Korean maple (acer pseudosieboldianum). Climb Peters hill on the paved road. This loud rascal stands alone and is the most obvious feature. It is an exhibitionist.

Its leaves are maple-like and un-maple-like. They have 11 pointed lobes, like a flattened monster’s paw. The colors would overwhelm a sugar maple’s. Also, it is hardy to zone 4, so that it’s colors last far longer before it loses its leaves. It’s worth the hike.

TheJapanese beautyberry berries other showoff is the Japanese beautyberry (callicarpa japonica). The bush at the top of Peters Hill is a sudden delight. Walk the path to the top and just to the right of the steps going up to the benches (with the nifty Boston skyline views) is a vivid lavender display on drab stalks.

Dour botanists describe the plant as not showy because the green leaves fall in fall, leaving dull spindly branches. However, as the botanical expression goes, this plant has persistent berries. They stay on long past hard frosts and loss of leaves.

Denigrating this treasure because its only color is in its long-lived berries is like talking down a singer who only belts out arias. This one too is worth a trip.

By the bye, there’s another of these on the half way down the hill toward the front entrance, by the often lavender lilacs. It must have been some botonist’s jest to put these lavender berries with the lavender lilacs.

Oddment comment: For some inexplicable reason, these two plant gems are not on on the interactive map nor the monthly highlights at the arboretum site. Fie on them. It makes me wonder what else we’d love that they overlook.

It’s a long time before the traditional Mother’s Day visit, with its big scents and prolific blossoms. Meanwhile, with grey and brown winter already calling us, we can take our pleasures where they remain.

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2 Responses

  1. Leslie T says:

    I discovered Japanese beautyberry about 10 years ago, on a November tour of Winterthur. It was a dull gray day, and the group of three beautiberries I ran across unexpectedly were almost magical. I now have them growing in my yard – one is just outside my office window where I can see the berries while warm and comfortable inside. They do last well into the winter, although they tend to fade a bit later in the season.

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