Fall Leaves

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Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03
Fall Leaves

For those of us who garden near deciduous trees, how should we handle fall clean up? Do we simply leave the leaves alone, or do we clean them up? Are there some plants that won't mind a mulch of maple leaves? I'm about ready to act, and I'd like to know what to do. Thanks.

Reed
Reed's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-10-09

I love to keep leaves on my garden in the winter even here in zone 8. It keeps the weeds down and protects my plants from the frost. My Taro never go all the way dormant under the leaves. Some people say to chip them up so they don't pack down but the last I checked the woods don't have wood chippers ( ;D) but I do rake them up as the plants begin to wake up; however, I put a thick layer down. In France the wild Cyclamen get covered by Oak leaves and they do great.
  I cover everything that goes dormant but I usually pile them up and wait till the first frost to spread them since the leaves are falling off now and I usually don't get a killing frost until December. I had to cut down my maple tree this year due to its health. So now I only have a new 15ft Platanus x acerfolia 'Exclamation' in its place so I will have too go and get leaves from my neighbor's yards  :(.

Albany, Oregon USA. Pacific Northwest, elevation approximately 200ft zone 8. Winter wet and Summer Dry. Hot enough to ripen the peaches.

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

I like leaf mulch, but I the leaves always go through the mower blades first (chop, chop).  Otherwise I risk them packing together to much and kinda suffocating the soil (like wet newspaper).  I prefer oak leaves, myself, but I use anything available.

I also wait as long as possible cover.  Well after a first frost.  I want to keep the cold in so I don't ever have to worry about anything coming up too early and thus vulnerable to late spring frosts.  The only things that would get "mulched" in a rock garden here are those that are vulnerable to winter sun.  Marsh hay (sedge) is great for this, as it stays together in long strands, so you can gather it up in the spring without hardly a mess.  You can usually reuse it for 2-3 seasons if you store it dry.

Curious how this basically doesn't seem to happen in nature.  I suppose the conditions for fast decomposition are more reliable.  Although, worms are not native it Minnesota, and in fact their invasion is threatening many of our native ephemeral wildflowers that depend on a duff layer.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Rick, I have read that earthworms were introduced to US by early European farmers and now threaten native woodland plants depending on slowly decaying leaves.
Here earthworms take away all leaves on my lawn, I never rake anything. Oakleaves are the thoughest and usually need  some years to decompose completely, the worms seem to dislike all the tannin in the leaves.

I never cover plants with mulch in winter - it becomes completely sodden and freeze to a hard layer when frost occur.

One exception though: I cover the Gunnera manicata with bracken and fern leaves.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Hoy wrote:

Rick, I have read that earthworms were introduced to US by early European farmers and now threaten native woodland plants depending on slowly decaying leaves.

Here earthworms take away all leaves on my lawn, I never rake anything. Oakleaves are the thoughest and usually need  some years to decompose completely, the worms seem to dislike all the tannin in the leaves.

I am not sure about elsewhere in the U.S., but earthworms are not native to Minnesota.  The flora here evolved without them, and it is the wild woodland ephemerals that are most negatively affected by earthworms.

The slow decomposition of oak leaves is exactly why I like them.  A mulch doesn't protect the soil surface very well if it turns to humus quickly!

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

To use an alternate interpretation of "fall leaves", I present a series of photos of fall leaves taken around in my town yesterday.

Autumn color is making a grand show here in Massachusetts (at least here is Northeastern Massachusetts, what do you think Peter?). The Sugar Maples are taking center stage at the moment, some ablaze with color, some just flushed with color that will peak in a couple days.  Aside from 4 years where I lived in the Pacific Northwest 3000 miles away, I've lived my entire life here in New England, one of the best places for fall color, and even with all those years behind me, I'm continually caught off guard and stunned each year with extraordinary fall foliage visions.

1-8  Photos taken on Main Street through my town, just opposite the town library.  These particular sugar maples are large and very old, and they color up with strong orange and red-orange colors.

9-10 Views from my deck, on a recent moody wild day, pouring rain one minute, blustery and cold, sun shining bright and warming the next. Here in my yard, the color is still several days away from prime.  The trees that constitute nearly an acre of woodland beyond the main sunny part of the yard (also about 1 acre) are old Sugar Maple, but typically mine usually turn an unremarkable yellow, sometimes a better orange-yellow as they are this year.  Wish I had some of the blazing red-orange types, or some of the more red all red types.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

I know New England is renowned for fall colors. I am sorry that I never have seen it with my own eyes but I believe it when you show pictures Mark!

We have not many native shrubs or trees here with  red colors, mostly yellow and brown. A few exceptions are rowan/mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) and Norway maple (Acer platanoides) which become red.

Here at the west coast autumn colors are rare anyway. Some garden shrubs like Enkianthus campanulatus, Euonymus elatus and Parrotia persica are among the few that always colors well.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Hoy wrote:

I know New England is renowned for fall colors. I am sorry that I never have seen it with my own eyes but I believe it when you show pictures Mark!

We have not many native shrubs or trees here with  red colors, mostly yellow and brown. A few exceptions are rowan/mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) and Norway maple (Acer platanoides) which become red.

Here at the west coast autumn colors are rare anyway. Some garden shrubs like Enkianthus campanulatus, Euonymus elatus and Parrotia persica are among the few that always colors well.

Trond, yes the fall color can be unbelievable here, although there are some years much better than others.  And as good as it is here, further north is better,  In fact, the best foliage I have ever seen is in Vermont, truly remarkable.  The trouble is, in the autumn season, many of the small towns in the States of Vermont and New Hampshire literally become gridlock with traffic from all of the "leaf-peepers" (tourists driving north just to see the foliage).

The color on your Enkianthus is very good, a shrub I admire, but two attempts at establishing the plant (planted out as tiny 4" tall seedlings) failed miserably as thy dried up and got toasted right away.  I need to purchase a large plant with more ability to become established.  The Parrotia also has good color.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Reed
Reed's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-10-09

Hamamelis 'jelena' Nice and Red. I think this one turned red early cause I moved her, my other one is still green. I guess I get the color twice.

Albany, Oregon USA. Pacific Northwest, elevation approximately 200ft zone 8. Winter wet and Summer Dry. Hot enough to ripen the peaches.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

James wrote:

Hamamelis 'jelena' Nice and Red. I think this one turned red early cause I moved her, my other one is still green. I guess I get the color twice.

James, good color on that witch hazel.  It has me thinking I received a bum plant by this name about 5-6 years ago, from a northwestern USA nursery.  Looking at my H. x intermedia 'Jejena' yesterday, I was surprised on two accounts, first, it was in full bloom (not terribly unusual for witch hazels which can sometimes bloom in the fall, but it hasn't done this before), but the flowers are light yellow!  It has bloomed in late winter as it should, with reddish-orange flowers, so I'm surprised by these fall blooms in light yellow.  My plant has no foliage color yet, and frankly, I don't remember any color on it besides maybe a forgettable yellow.  Not sure what to think about my plant.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Reed
Reed's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-10-09

I have noticed that even for a Clone when I see them at the nurseries there is a difference with the leaves. Some of them hold on to the leaves over winter and I hate that. But There is a possibility you got one that grew back from its original root stock. I have seen them bloom with two different colors at gardens that don't take care of the shrubs and the root stock flowers are not as good.

Albany, Oregon USA. Pacific Northwest, elevation approximately 200ft zone 8. Winter wet and Summer Dry. Hot enough to ripen the peaches.

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