Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall color—and the lack thereof

A good thing we visited the fabulous Pumpkinville (above) last week, because these pumpkins are providing the blast of brilliant autumnal hues we usually expect from our trees—a blast that will be somewhat dimmed this year.

Not all the maple trees in Western New York have the dreaded tar spot, or the Rhytisma acerinum fungus, but enough do that leaf peepers will notice a considerable amount of dull brown patches along local roadsides this fall. Norway, red, and silver maples are said to be the most affected, but it seems more widespread than that this year—at least to my unscientific eyes.

And here’s the depressing prognosis, courtesy of the Purdue Extension:
Tar spot diseases seldom are detrimental to the overall health of infected trees. Tar spots may cause premature defoliation, but are not known to kill trees. Tar spot diseases are best managed by raking and destroying fallen leaves because the fungi overwinter on leaves.

According to all sources, the tiny spores infect the leaves in the spring, and their growth is much aided by very wet springs, as we had this year. (Apparently, Buffalo got the lion’s share of its annual rainfall in May.)

I also saw this on the University of Maine’s extension site: If infected maple leaves begin to crinkle and turn brown, anthracnose, another common disease of maple, may also be present. This must surely be the case, as I’ve noticed the spots before, but never as bad as this, and there is crinkling.

Sources agree that treatment is unlikely to help, and in any case would mean blanketing the city with fungicide. The municipality is unlikely to ever remove the infected trees, as the disease will not kill the trees. So I am stuck with ugly trees and their horrifically ugly leaves in front of my house pretty much every year.

I’m not alone. Tree owners throughout the Midwest and Northeast are asking their extension services about this, if google is any indication. Here's my answer: don’t plant Norway maples, and replace those you can with a good mix of other tree species. All trees get diseases and infestations, but if we don’t depend on a monoculture of just one type of tree, the impact is not as dire. I wish the people who chose to plant my block almost entirely with Crimson King Norway maples had thought of that!

Leaf spot photo by JP Thimot.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Do I have to talk about my garden?

I’d much rather not. It looks fine and all—in fact, there’s been a decent amount of late season activity, thanks to tireless annuals, oblivious tropicals and a few warhorse perennials (rudbeckia, buddleia, etc., etc.). Things are winding down now; it’s almost time to bring the houseplants in and bury the bulbs.

To a certain degree, this has been a summer of looking at other people’s gardens. In July, the Seattle bloggers’ meet-up provided a whirlwind tour of magnificent private and public landscapes. The Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island was the most spectacular site we visited, in my opinion, and I think most of the bloggers would agree. There have been many posts on the Seattle gardens, but I am sharing just two images from Bloedel, at top and above. This is part of their Japanese area. I’ve seen plenty of Japanese gardens, but the variety of specimen trees, the artistry, and the luxuriant spectrum of greens in this one set it apart.

In August, we had two great garden visits, one private and one public. First we stopped by the fabulous property of Layanee/Ledge and Gardens. She made us a wonderful lunch, most of it fresh from her garden, and then we walked around in a steady rain to view her extensive gardens. There are several beds framing the house, more around the pool, and a good-sized vegetable bed. I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought—the rain, we were talking—but here’s a decent one (above).

Finally, we saw the formal grounds of Edith Wharton’s former home, The Mount, on our way back from New England. It’s gone through some rough times over the years, but is being restored. Wharton was an accomplished landscape designer in the classic fashion, clearly inspired by gardens she’d seen in Europe. I liked the contract between two equally formal spaces—a shady walled Italian garden and the quartered sunny flowerbeds. There are also magnificent buddleia and hydrangeas massed along the slope to the house (not visible here).

That will be it for garden tourism unless we make it to the tropics this winter. Fingers crossed!