Tag Archives: leaves

winter sycamores

It’s time for my annual tribute to the winter sycamore trees. The week of rain leading up to Christmas has left most of the trees bare, their leaves on the ground.

So, when life mainly gives you fallen leaves, that’s mainly what I’ve taken photos of this year. I won’t call this great art but I do like the square shot of the bare branches…maybe a little Jackson Pollack or Harry Callahan

The question I’ve been asking myself a lot this season: Is it just my imagination, or do the leaves more often than not land butter-side-down, with their top sides usually against the dirt? Maybe the way they’re weighted? Or are they unstable if they land on their stems so that the wind blows them over?

white solstice

The year's first carpenteria, which opened on December 17th, shown here with an appreciative local critter on the stamens.

Winter Solstice is a celebration for optimists. Six months of ever-diminishing sunlight leads up to this, the day with the longest, darkest night. If you weren’t an optimist or schooled in the rational ways of the world you might expect the days to diminish into perpetual darkness–No wonder the Mayan Long Count Calendar ends on this day in 2012. A pessimist could see this day as the beginning of the end of time.

But I know things are about to change. The duration of the sunlight I find so precious is about to start to increase. The plants that are beginning to sprout will take advantage of the extra light and grow faster and run headlong into California’s manic late-winter, early-spring season of flowering and regeneration. Call me an optimist. It may be tough now, but to appropriate the words of Dan Savage in his campaign to fight bullying of LGBT young persons, It gets better!

Here’s a brief white-themed gallery in case you’re dreaming of a white solstice. We have no snow to offer you, but instead how about some bright white flowers, some white leaves to get you into the mood?

Have a warm and safe holiday, everyone, whether the white stuff around you is snow, foliage or blooms. It’s all about to get better, soon.

The local chaparral currant, Ribes indecorum, a plant new to the garden within the last year, coming into bloom for the first time.
Detail of the chaparral currant flowers.
December paperwhite narcissus
Early-season blooms of black sage, Salvia mellifera. The overall color is really more pale violet than white.
Flowers on a volunteer statice plant, Limonium perezii. The bracts give the flowering structures a lavender look, but you can see that the flowers are actually white inside the bracts. The closest neighbor's plant of this is a few hundred feet down the street. I had no idea the seeds could travel so far. Enjoy it now. This weed is outta there once the holidays are over.
Details of the leaves of San Miguel Island buckwheat, Eriogonum grande, green on top, white beneath...

The white-ish Dudleya brittonii with December precipitation, rain, not snow...

Who could forget our great local white sage, Salvia apiana?

...and one of our great local dudleyas, D. pulverulenta, one of the whitest of the dudleyas, and it loves life in my garden. Joy oh joy!

those autumn leaves, so-cal edition

Here’s a short roundup of some of the leaf colors going on in the garden. This is Southern California so it was tough coming up with the stereotypical sizzling reds and yellow and oranges of a lot of autumn gardens in colder climates. But I think we’ve got some pretty cool colors, including the color that might cause the most envy from the northern latitudes: green!

Unfortunately this is what the preceding plant looks like when you back away from the few remaining colored leaves. Most of the autumn color is from the pile o' bricks in the background.
I've mentioned my fondness for the look of poison oak before. This is a relative from California and much of the rest of the country, Rhus aromatica, a.k.a. R. trilobata, the Gro-Low clone. It's not poisonous, but not so amazingly colored as its evil cousin either.
Yellowing apricot leaves...
Euphorbia tirucalli, the Sticks on Fire clone, showing the orange and red colors that start to develop as the temperature plummets into the high 30s. I've grown--and battled to remove--the typical green version which gets pretty huge and out of control. This clone doesn't get nearly so huge, but I don't trust that fact enough to let it out of a pot.
This photo of a little plum is more interesting than pretty. These are the December leaves of one of those multi-variety grafted trees. Each of the varieties is coloring up in its own way.
Another Euphorbia, E. cotinifolia. This one's a bit of a cheat. The leaves are this color all year until they drop for the winter.
A close look at the chalk dudleya, D. pulverulenta. Some of the white stuff covering the leaves has been rubbed off in the foreground leaves.
On the left, the mediterranean Phlomis monocephala, in its stressed gold-green summer coloration. Soon the plant will turn greener with more rains. To the right, Central-California Coast native Astragalus nuttallii with leaves edging towards blue and gray.
And all over the garden are seedlings showing lots of that green color I talked about. Here's a young plant of the local stinging lupine, Lupinus hirsutissimus. It doesn't really sting, but the little haris can definitely poke you. Handling a dried plant after it's died down in the spring without gloves is not one of the more pleasant things I've done.

Happy fall, everyone. I hope you all enjoy whatever colors the season brings you.

from leaf to mulch

For my first attempt at participating in Pam at Digging’s Foliage Follow-up Day I looked under the grapefruit tree for inspiration. As the leaves fall from the tree they go from green to brown to gray before they finally become part of the compost that enriches the top of the soil. That last stage produces some gorgeous artifacts, where what’s left is mostly the thicker veins of the leaf. Even as the leaf tissue between the veins becomes compost or is consumed by the little critters living in the mulch, the structure of the leaf still remains.

Here’s a series of photos of those last recognizable traces of formerly-living leaves. Most of the below take advantage of the fact that the shadow can seem much more substantial as the thing itself. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the lasting power of a leaf that is about to become compost? Something about the cycle of life?