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Hello Everyone,


I was having my normal jolt of morning coffee with a view of my garden and I had to ask, have you noticed something odd about your Japanese maples throughout the landscape? For about 3 months I have been expecting the leaves to drop from the branches of Japanese maples around Auburn and surrounding areas. They continue to cling to the branches after heavy rains, sleet and some heavy wet snow. Of course we are accustomed to juvenile oak trees and especially beech trees carrying their brown/copper leaves throughout the winter but Japanese maples typically scream at us with their blazing colors and then litter the ground with bright yellow, orange, and red colors for another week or so before shutting down to a pretty, dark silhouette until spring. I have never seen this happen before and I am still not sure that I like the view.
At times it reminds me of a bald cypress when the sun hits the copper, frilly foliage and I have a WOW moment. At other times they just have a dead-ish, brown, unnatural appearance like a horror movie as the music intensifies and the little girl walks down the dark creaking stairs through cobwebs to the basement. Uncomfortable, don’t go down there!
This was a year in which the weather was typically atypical and we had a freeze at the wrong time halting cell division and plant growth. Normally a tree breaks its spring buds, grows into the summer forming and losing carbohydrate-making chlorophyll. As fall approaches, days get shorter and the darkness gets longer. A proliferation of cells form at the petioles of the leaves and become a corky layer or abscission layer that eventually breaks off with time, wind, rain, and snow. Chlorophyll breaks down and cool nights and bright days cause sugars to accumulate. Pigments are generated and exposed as our fall color. This year the process was zapped with an untimely freeze, throwing a wrench into the whole process. The abscission decision and natural flow of life was abruptly blocked causing me to miss part of my fall show and tipping my world a little off its axis. I am not comfortable. It is like the recent scientific revelation that our earth’s axis had an adjustment and I am no longer a Libra and my wife is no longer a Pisces. Are we still compatible? Maybe this same tampering and shaking of our star alignment resulted in a magical sports season. Ah, those wet, glistening, frilly, copper leaves dancing in the morning sun are looking good again.
The garden is always giving us things to ponder. Enjoy the view!


Please come back often and enjoy HortShorts as much as I enjoy posting them for you. Your enthusiastic plant response is always encouraged and welcome.
Ken Tilt



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