Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable
You might not want to go for a walk with me at this time of year. I take about two steps and then stop and look at leaves on the walk ahead of me, get out my camera and take some pictures. Then I go just a few more steps and do it again! It takes a while to get anywhere. Fallen leaves create a beautiful collage on the pavement and lawn in every neighborhood. Often what I see on the ground makes me look up to see where the leaves came from since they may have blown from a tree in someone’s backyard I might not have noticed otherwise.
Unlike last year, when Japanese maple leaves turned brown and clung to the trees well into winter, this year they are showing a more expected change from their summer leaf color to the vivid reds, yellows and oranges they are renowned for in Japan. Last year’s trouble was likely a combination of a very dry summer and the early frost in October. There are many varieties of Japanese maples around town. Most of them have reddish-burgundy leaf color in summer, but there are also some green leaved varieties. As for fall color, there may be many shades on the same individual tree. The Japanese maple beside the monument in Saugus Center has turned mostly yellow, but there are also some orange and red tones on branches that receive the most sunlight.
The most vivid red in the rotary right now is on the burning bush (Euonymus alata), a shrub that was very popular for its fall color for many years. Due to its invasive nature, nurseries in Massachusetts and many other states are no longer allowed to sell it. Heavy pruning helps reduce the development and spread of seeds. It was introduced from Asia in the mid-19th century, and it can grow up to 15 feet tall. It is still commonly seen in many gardens and public areas, and while it is not very showy at other times of year, it is certainly hard to miss in the fall. If in a sunny location, the leaves are almost always fire engine red, but in very shady locations the leaves may be yellowish or sometimes deep pink.
As late as it is in November, a few flowers are still blooming. Some roses are continuing to flower; several of my ‘Autumn Fire’ sedums have begun flowering again; and my reward for going out to rake leaves was a single white clover (Trifolium repens) blossom which appeared in the lawn! Several kinds of azalea and rhododendron hybrids frequently rebloom in the fall if weather is favorable even though they are normally expected to flower in the spring. My ‘Autumn Royalty’ azalea is one of a line bred to bloom twice a year and in fact it has a few blossoms on it even now. When I was photographing the colorful foliage near the Saugus Civil War monument, I saw a blossom on the rhododendron (Rhododendron P.J.M.) on the south side of the rotary island, which gets more sunlight than the north side. My azalea and that rhododendron both keep their leaves all winter, but they tend to develop a slightly bronze to purple foliage color in the cold months rather than green. Those of us moving fallen leaves around at this time of year may notice daffodils and some other bulbs sending a few inches of green leaves above the ground – this is not unusual and can happen in November, February or any winter month when temperatures are a little warmer than usual. Sometimes people worry when they see this, but it does not reduce the chances of good bloom in the spring.
Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.