Why is it that the moment you want something the worst is that very moment you are destined to loose it? I mourn the loss of the leaves, come fall. It is the end of a story that has unfolded over many months. Once the plants have leaved out in the spring, we are awash in the green that leaves provide. Everywhere I look in my little garden, I see green leaves. The stiff little boxwood leaves all precisely laid along the stems. The big lax rhododendron leaves flopping this way and that. The big handed Princeton Gold maple leaves are held parallel to the ground, and shade every plant and every person beneath them. The curly fronds beech ferns have that missing front tooth look. The magnolia leaves are simple, big, and strong.
The hellebore leaves fan out, whorled around their stems. The hydrangeas leaves are ovate-each shrub is smothered with them. The rose leaves are glossy, and subtly serrated. Perennial geranium leaves-they are the most astonishing clubby shape, and heavily veined. The leaves of grass we refer to as blades. The leaves of the Parrotia are stiff, and marked with strong parallel veins. The dogwood leaves are softer, more subtle. The leaves of the hardy hibiscus-large and thin. The leaves of butterburr-the elephant in the garden room. Yews do not have leaves. They have needles. Those green needily configured leaves grace the garden year round.
The leaves of the Palabin lilac are short and pert. Snakeroot has large and dramatically serrated leaves. The peonies feature thick glossy leaves that endow the garden long after they have finished blooming. Thyme leaves-so small. Dandelion leaves-coarse and uncouth. Horseradish leaves-the ultimate height and breadth of uncouth. Scotch moss leaves are soft and mossy in appearance. The platycodon leaves are thick and stiff as a board and quite blue in color. The big sail like delphinium leaves are all a spring storm needs to blow a stand of tall and ethereal blue blossoms over and onto to its knees.
Creeping jenny has round leaves-the lime version can cover the ground in no time. The lime leaves of the hosta Sum and Substance are stiff and heavily veined-in the summer. Regal, this plant. At the first frost they collapse in a heap. Not so regal, how they melt in the cold, and go down. Russian sage, lavender and dusty miller have silvery gray leaves.
There are those leaves in colors other than green. This list is long. Red leaves. Variegated leaves. Yellow leaves. White leaves. But the leaves do more than delight a gardener with their shape, mass and color. Leaves photosynthesize, meaning that they absorb, and convert sunlight into energy. The leaves of a plant fuel its growth and health. In the fall, those food makers are shed from the plants about to go dormant. The process by which a leaf provides a plant with energy all summer, matures, colors up, and drops, is an extraordinary story.
Fall color is all about the leaves. The lime green shoot that leafed out in the spring, and energized a plant all season long, matures in the fall. The life cycle of a leaf represents the life cycle of a garden. How astonishing that the leaves turn such beautiful color in the fall before they drop. That garden day that I treasure the leaves the most is the the spring. The leafing out in spring is all about the hope for the future of the garden. My second most treasured day? That moment when all of the leaves in my garden have colored up, and are about to fall.
Once fall comes, the leaves have done their job. No leaves make a better show of the end of the season than Boston Ivy. They make a party, in celebration of a season well lived. The close of their season-fiery. Just look at the leaves.
All that remains now of these Boston ivy leaves are the stems. How could I miss them-they are the most astonishing shade of pink imaginable. They come away from the wall in a way that stops me dead in my tracks. All summer and fall long I look at these leaves, and marvel. The garden asks for a lot, but the story it delivers is delightful. Epic.