As one born in November, I often feel a little defensive about this month’s poor image. November means short days, damp cold, gray skies and sudden mounds of brownish oak leaves on freshly-raked lawns. (My husband imputes malevolence to the oaks, which wait until the last maple leaf is disposed of before they let go of their leathery load.) Even November’s birthstone – the topaz – is unexciting. On the upside, snow is rare – or used to be, before climate change sneaked onto the scene.
Tuesday’s dusting of snow, however, merely put a little coat of ice on some brilliant leaves, and pointed out the fallacy of calling November a drab month.
My two bright-red Japanese maples (photo on right) are still fully clothed, although some leaves are a bit tattered by now.
The Franklinia (at left) finally stopped blooming last week, but compensated by turning its leaves a bright reddish-orange.
A young oak-leaf Hydrangea bloomed briefly this summer for the first time, but now flaunts striking orange-red-purple foliage. Later in life, this handsome shrub will reveal exfoliating bark.
Off in another corner, a dozen or so stump sprouts (below) from an American elm caught snow and ice on their coarse yellow-green leaves.
Straggly though they are, they highlight the Winterberry branches whose berries the birds have yet to devour.
The colors of November are subtle, muted for lack of contrast. If you drop a red maple leaf on an emerald-green lawn, the contrasting colors leap out at you. But the same red leaf against the dun-colored backdrop of November has very little “pop.”
Perhaps November is an essential transition between the harsh brilliance of summer and the stark black-and-white of winter. Our eyes need a period of adjustment, just as our houseplants must get used to indoor temperatures when they come in from the autumn chill.