The foliage of this tree (Nyssa sylvatica) is always colourful in autumn but this is the first time I've seen it with two distinct colours.  Can anyone explain why this happens?

Giving Thanks


Today is Thanksgiving day in Canada, and there is much to be thankful for. In the garden, colours are bright.


Sedum 'Autumn Joy' lives up to its name.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ lives up to its name.


Even when the flowers have faded, I’m thankful for work that’s been done.  At the Aqueduct the catmint ( Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’) has been cut back, making the bed look more like a monk’s shaved head than the overgrown mop of foliage it was only days ago.


Those stubs of nepeta between the boxwood should grow exuberantly next summer.
Those stubs of nepeta between the boxwood should grow exuberantly next summer. I hope the iris I added will, too.


Also looking bare after its annual cut is the Big Meadow. With the hay bales still in place, it looks less like a lawn and more like the farm field it used to be.


The grass is baled like hay and moved to the bank of the lake where it stops children from going over the edge.
This year we baled four bales, three of which you can see here. This is one fewer bale than last year. I think a drier summer accounts for the change.


Thankfully uncut are the ornamental grasses by the Skating Pond. They are at their best in autumn, particularly on a breezy day.


Miscanthus sinensis is at its best in autumn, particularly on a breezy day.
You can see two ornamental grasses here, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ in the foreground and Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ in the shadows at the back.


Usually, fall colours hit their peak at Thanksgiving, but this year the colours are muted, less vibrant than normal. I think this is due to the hotter and dryer days we had throughout September  — many days felt like summer. These warm days have continued into October, making fall still seem a distant prospect.

Going through the woods with my granddaughter, fall was more evident. We spotted some bright colours, but they often appeared in isolated patches, surrounded by green.


White birch trunks are common in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
White birch trees are common in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.


Poplar leaves glowed yellow or occasionally appeared a blanched out white.


I think these are yellow poplar leaves.
At first I was quite excited, thinking these were yellow or tulip poplar leaves (Liriodendron) that aren’t typically hardy in this part of Quebec. I knew I was wrong as soon as I check an identification chart.


Ferns were clear markers of the change of season. Many have turned from green to toasted gold…


Another typical fall scene in my woods.
A typical fall scene in my woods, with ferns, ash trees and young poplars making a come-back.


but others, like Christmas ferns (Polystichum) and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum) still wear their summer clothes.


Maidenhair ferns still retain their colouring.
My granddaughter can now identify maidenhair ferns by their black stems and tiara-like shape.


The woods at Glen Villa comprise different ecosystems. Some sections are full of tall straight trees with almost no undergrowth.


These trees near the edge of an old farm field are part of a major project I'm working on now.
These trees near the edge of an old farm field are part of a major project I’m working on now. I’ll write more on that when the project is a bit more advanced.


Others are deep and mysterious.


This forest of tall pines looks ghostly when photographed.
This forest of tall pines was planted about 25 years ago. It always looks ghostly when photographed. I hope someone can tell me why.


Some places in the woods hint at earlier times, when the land was cleared for farming.


An old rock pile near an even older stone wall suggests that this was once a farm field.
An old rock pile near an even older stone wall suggests that this was once a farm field.


In other places, the hints turn into shouts and the land tells its story loud and clear.


Once upon a time there was an apple orchard here.
Once upon a time there was an apple orchard here. The  low stone wall marked the boundary.


Garbage collection and municipal dumps are relatively new things in many rural areas, including this one. Before they existed, farmers used the woods.  This old dump close to a trail contained many things you might expect: tin cans, glass bottles, rusted metal and an old inner tube.


An old rubber boot has disintegrated almost entirely. I wonder how long it has taken?
I wonder how long it took for this rubber boot to disintegrate as much as it has. Years or decades?


It also contained some surprises.


This modern convenience isn't as convenient as it used to be.
Once upon a time someone gave thanks for this modern convenience. It isn’t as convenient as it used to be.


Even if they are less vibrant than usual, colours still abound in the woods, on branches and on the ground.


Fallen apples in the woods.
Fallen apples in the woods may not be the perfect specimens you buy in a grocery store but they still make very good apple crisp.


Without doubt, though, the most colourful part of Thanksgiving — and definitely the most delicious — was the turkey.


A 13 lb turkey will be plenty for 9 people, with left overs galore. Or so I hope!
A 13 lb. turkey was plenty for 9 people, with lots of left overs to share.


Happy Thanksgiving!


  • My birches are still green and my turkey was 12lbs and sufficient for one and the rest of the week! Happy Thanksgiving Pat!

    • siteandinsight

      Turkey is now soup, and not bad.

  • Judy H

    Your woods are lovely, how delightful to take a walk with you through them!

    • siteandinsight

      Thanks, Judy. Always good to have company.

  • Lise Arsenault

    Wow nice tall ornamental grasses. Like those red flowers Autumn Joy. Maybe the toilet can be used by nature in some mysterious way.

    • siteandinsight

      Mother Nature? why not?

  • Happy Thanksgiving! Our autumn color seems muted as well, but just a few miles down the road it’s more brilliant. Very odd fall, weatherwise.

    • siteandinsight

      I agree, Kathy. Colours are brighter this week, and very bright in some spots. Odd weather, summer and fall. Next week is meant to be warm again — mid 60s, which is much warmer than normal.

      • We still haven’t had a frost. Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

        • siteandinsight

          Do you think the strange summer and fall weather will continue through the winter? If so, will it be warmer or colder? more snow or less?

          • I couldn’t begin to guess intelligently. The superstitious part of me thinks, “We’ll pay for this later” but I’m ready to be surprised and roll with the punches. I just hope it doesn’t turn bitter before I get all my bulbs planted.

  • Jason

    Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! I love your white birch trees, golden ferns, and all your other autumn highlights!

    • siteandinsight

      Thanks, Jason. Fall colours are my favourites, I think. Or maybe spring colours. Or maybe summer colours. Or maybe… you get the idea.

  • Jean Potuchek

    Colors are muted here, too, and presumably for the same reason — one of the warmest Septembers on record followed by what may turn out to be the warmest October on record. We’ve also had a second consecutive year of summer drought, which I probably reduces the amount of sugars that the trees produce. (If I understand correctly, the red and purple colors are produced by anthocyanins in sugars in the leaves, and plants produce more anthocyanins in cooler weather.)
    Our local TV meteorologist has discovered a correlation between warm Octobers here and higher than average winter snowfall, but he is still trying to figure out if the correlation is just a statistical fluke or if warm Octobers really are predictive.

    • siteandinsight

      I’m not sure whether to rejoice in the warm October — it’s Oct 21 and we’ve had only one frost — or bemoan the possibility of lots of snow. But I think I’ll stick with rejoicing. Today the temperature rose to 21C and with a bright blue sky, the sunshine made me very happy to be outdoors.