Foliage Day, December 2014

I’ve profiled foliage from my garden in the past, but I’m going to hang out with the Europeans today by joining with Christina and her beautiful blog,  Creating my own garden of the Hesperides, as she hostesses Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day for December 2014.

Folks who’ve relocated to Austin, Texas have complained to me (usually in  whiny voices), there’s no fall color here.  That gets my “Texan” up a bit, because we do enjoy autumn color in Central Texas, at home and all around. Lovely fall foliage.

IMGP2940.newThe color evolution happens later than in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, closer to the actual start date for winter.  Additionally, the turn of foliage is gradual, beginning in November, peaking in late November/early December, and typically finishing by New Year’s Day.  It’s not a dramatic foliage show, loud and boisterous like you’d think something in Texas would be.  Instead, the change is gradual, subtle, and gentle.

In my gardens, the two Shumard OakQuercus shumardii, trees extend their color change over many weeks.

There are several species of oak trees in Texas that are commonly referred to as “Red” oak.  I’m guilty of misnaming the two major arboreal specimens in my back garden as “Red” oaks.  In fact, both are Shumard  Oaks.

Gorgeous trees, I appreciate their many attributes: the shade they cast in summer, the cover and food provided for the many birds and other wildlife who visit or make these trees home, and the fall foliage mosaic (albeit in December) that these two trees provide.

Another tree residing in my realm, though probably not one I would have planted on my own, is the American Sycamore, Plantanus

I don’t hate this tree, but it’s a bit water thirsty for Central Texas–it’s naturally found along stream banks and bottomlands which hold moisture from floods, and that’s not where my home resides.  The tree was established when I bought my home and I wouldn’t remove a mature tree, so it’s remained as a major shade source for my gardens. Aside from its struggles during dry periods (drought-stress causes defoliation), the leaves are thick and big. Really big.

Awkward and especially messy in the garden, the leaves don’t break down in any reasonable amount of time. Here you can see a small sampling of Sycamore leaf litter. There are points during late December when all that is visible in certain parts of my gardens are those dinner plate-sized leaves. A garden is not so nice when those huge leaves obscure everything in it!  Sycamore leaves are too large and thick to leave in the garden (for this OCD gardener), or to place, as is, into the compost.  They mat together, forming a barrier against moisture, thus slowing the composting process.

But in the tree, especially during the seasonal change,  Sycamore foliage is quite lovely.

Fluttering in the breeze, in an array of colors,…the leaves are resplendent against the blue sky.

Once the leaves drop and I’ve vacuumed and shredded them, dumped them directly into my compost bin and/or onto the gardens as mulch, the spherical seed pods decorate the tree throughout winter.  In spring, the seed balls explode, releasing feathery seeds aloft in the wind.

On the ground, foliage also makes its presence known.  Floating in the bird baths,


…accompanying the bee hives,

…and blanketing the gardens and pathways.  Here, the brown oak leaves combine with the stalks of the RetamaParkinsonia aculeata.

A bit upwards from the ground sit perennials which also sport fabulous foliage this GBFD. The colorful foliage of the Ruby Red Runner, Alternanthera hybrid, which is part of the biological filtering system of my pond, is

Tiny floral gomphrena puffs accompany the plum leaves. Ruby Red Runner provides foliage interest nearly year round; a hard freeze will render this plant dormant.

The Butterfly VineMascagnia macroptera, showcases lush green foliage and fascinating chartreuse seed pods which resemble butterflies, thus the common name for this native plant to Mexico and southwards.

Currently, none of the seed pods are the rusty-brown they eventually become, but it’s quite a picture when there are differently pigmented “butterflies” resting on the vine.

Firebush, Hamelia patens. speckles after frost damage to its foliage,

…but  I like it.  No blooms remain on this heat-loving, native-to-Florida.  Once we have a killing freeze, it will be dormant until late spring.

Lastly, the Chile Pequin, Capsicum annuum (var. glabriusculum) adds major hotness to the garden.

Pepper hotness, that is.  A beautiful, shade-tolerant and deciduous (in most winters) shrub, many birds (and my husband) favor these chile peppers, the only truly native chile pepper in Texas.  Here, it’s  accompanied by Yarrow, Achillea millefolium.

Such a lovely plant for this time of year.  Who says we don’t have seasonal foliage color in Texas??

For foliage celebrations from around the world, visit Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for GBFD!

12 thoughts on “Foliage Day, December 2014

  1. Hi Tina, thank you very much for joining GBFD for the first time. You have really showed us some lovely colour. I’ve been guilty of complaining about the lack of foliage colour where I live in central Italy, but you are right there is always some to enjoy, if I look hard enough. This year there was more than usual because of the wet summer and some cooler nights in autumn. Your photographs are stunning, thank you for sharing them with us.


    • Thank you for hosting! I’ve been reading your blog and others for some time and enjoyed the posts–so I thought I would join in. I really do believe that most places have beauty. It might not be the beauty preferred, but it can be appreciated and lauded for what it is. Our winter colors are very muted here–lots of beige and tan, but it helps me appreciate the subtlety of color and the evergreens all that much more.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tina, I found your blog though Christina’s and enjoyed your foliage descriptions. My neighbor has an American Sycamore and so I get a lot of those big, thick leaves in my garden too. Your Butterfly vine is attractive. Susie


    • Thanks for stopping by, Susie! You know what I mean then–big ole clumpy leaves! In general, I’m very happy to let most plants do their thing, even if a little “mess” is involved, but man-o-man, I hate those leaves! I love that butterfly vine–it’s tough and so fun in the garden.


  3. AH! Mystery solved. I have seen the leaves blowing around and was kind of amazed at their size. The word ‘sycamore’ has a nice lyrical sound and I’ve heard it in many song lyrics (from gospel songs to punk) but never knew the tree itself. I like the little tree ornaments that hang from the branches. (Beautiful photos, btw. Wow).


  4. These photos are all so lovely – they warm my Central Texas heart – but that last shot of the Shumard oak leaves is stunning. I’ll admit I kind of got stuck there for a while…

    Slightly off topic but I fondly recall spray painting sycamore seed balls gold for my Mom to use in a dried arrangement for Thanksgiving and later, Christmas. We didn’t have a sycamore so I had to go next door and beg permission to pick up seed pods in their back yard. I’d be sent to another neighbor’s house to pick up pods from a magnolia. At the time I thought my Mom was so weird to like and use “tree trash” to create a table centerpiece. Now I wish I had more photos of them – they were very “local” and so lovely!


    • Hi TexasDeb! I contemplated pruning that branch off earlier in the fall–iit hangs lower than the rest of branches and looks a little off-kilter. But two things kept me from following through: it’s where the bird feeder hangs (I like that particular spot) and that tree is where my Screech Owl house resides and sometimes the owlets use that branch as a walkway to the Mountain Laurel (the other tree in the photo). I guess I now have a third reason to keep the branch–those leaves have grown even more beautiful since I posted.

      I love the story about your painted sycamore balls!! So charming and I’m sure there must be many happy memories for you. When my children were little, they loved to jump on the the unexploded seed balls found on the ground. Those seed balls make an especially gratifying POP when crushed. I confess that I’ve been guilty of doing that too!

      I used to really dislike that tree, but I’ve come to appreciate it over the years. Beautiful bark, wonderful shade, lovely fall color, and winter interest. That seems like a pretty good recipe for a desirable tree!


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