After Thanksgiving, you are hopeful that you have been able to put the garden to bed. The hydrangea have had their blooms cut back revealing tiny sticks poking out of the soil. A few iris pods are left that rattle in the wind. And the rose hips are full and fat ready for the plucking. But like maintaining a diet during Thanksgiving week, this is an illusion that often is never realized. This year the Japanese maples are holding on to their leaves refusing to drop them.
In most years, the Japanese maples put on a spectacular show of color before dropping their cover in one big whoosh within the course of a day. Bright and colorful, they drift down in thick waves coating the ground. They form a mat that looks like some Asian print of overlapping leaves in bright reds, yellows and oranges. If they sit long enough on the slate patio, they leave an scarlet outline of their resting spot. Then as quickly as they fall, they are raked up and placed in the compost bin.
This year they are not following that pattern. The color has long since been drained from their leaves and they hang on to their branches curled, brown and cracked. A few have escaped this fate but most have chosen to hang on rather than fall off. It gives the trees a sad look and one that is uncomfortable to focus on. These trees in our yard have always been lovely to look at regardless of the season: They come to life in the Spring with tiny buds and lots of lightly colored pollen. The Summer branches fill with leaves of different green and reddish tints. They quickly burst into color in the Fall and just as quickly become an intricate skeleton in the Winter. But now they are resolute hangers on to a season long since past that has not been forgotten but is truly missed.