Leaf litter

leaf litter Throw leaves away? Perish the thought. I wish I could preserve fall’s leaves for color therapy sessions in the middle of winter. Right now I’m particularly taken with the changing colors on some of the shrubs and vines. I’ve never squinted at such a fluorescent color not in a highlighter marker as the redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus). The Fothergilla gardenii is even prettier than a brand new box of 64 colors, and the Boston Ivy is as shiny and intensely red as fresh blood (who isn’t secretly enthralled by a bloody-gusher papercut?) What is your favorite shrub – or vine – for fall color?

Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) Fothergilla gardeniiredvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus)Tatarian dogwood (Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo')Itea 'Little Henry'

leaves on the cutting garden

Even if the colors will fade, the leaves are still worth keeping as the winter blanket and soil amendment that nature intended when she dropped them on the ground in the first place.

“Back in the day…” according to Gail, the Blithewold grounds crew vacuumed up all of the property’s leaves in mowers and dumped them in giant piles on the vegetable bed. Gail remembers spending blissful December days distributing the piles of shredded leaves and grass clippings (after walking on her knees three miles uphill in the snow to get here) throughout the Display Garden beds – and she doesn’t remember having to do nearly as much weeding in the spring as we (and by we, I really mean the volunteers) have done lately. This fall Gail’s wish for a return to the old-school method was granted, at least in part. If it ever stops raining, we’ll still be given a lofty pile or two of blown leaves to shred and use in the spring, but last week we were also given a few slightly grassy piles of pre-shredded leaves to spread immediately on the gardens. With any luck – so far the leaf layer hasn’t blown away – in spring we (again, the volunteers) will be able to plant the gardens without having to do major battle with the weeds first. On the down side, some of our volunteers – self-sowers, that is, such as emilia, poppies, talinum, snow-on-the-mountain, and blue spice basil – may be no-shows in the spring.

Do you cover your garden beds with leaves now or in the spring? Do you notice a difference in the amount of weeds or self-sowers?