Love the Leaves and Leave Them Be

Fall Leaves

by Linda Wiggen Kraft
Healthy Planet Green & Growing Editor

The colors of fall are in full glory as the leaves turn from green to shades of fire, sun and embers. The reds, oranges, yellows and all colors of warmth are the fireworks of nature. There is a sharpness in the air, the sky is a denser blue against the heat of tree colors as we soak in the cooler air and fall light. 

The call of fall leaves entices us to plant trees and shrubs that will explode in fire colors. This call also entices us to travel seeking vistas of forests ablaze in color. There is a fall foliage map that shows where trees are turning colors throughout the entire country. Click on https://smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map/ to see the map. There is a slider bar at the bottom of the map that gives the fall foliage forecast by date. It’s zones of hot colors predict patchy, partial, near peak, peak and past peak areas. The map predicts that our region will have partial peak and peak colors in mid to late October. Using the map is a great way to plan for a fall foliage drive. 

The call of fall leaves also goes out to the insect world as butterflies and moths prepare for winter in the shelter of leaves. Many of these insects overwinter in the fallen leaves. Help these insects by leaving the leaves where they fall until a spell of spring days over 50 degrees takes place, then clean up last year’s leaves. Create garden beds under trees where the leaves can fall and stay all winter until springtime. Insects will be living there in the leaves. 

To create the habitat that supports the most life in a garden plant native plants, shrubs and trees. They provide some of the best fall colors. Red Oak (quercus rubra) has bright red leaves. It is also an oak, which like all oaks, is the plant that is home to the most species of insects, including caterpillars, that are needed for birds to feed their young in the spring. Red Oaks grow from Minnesota to Arkansas and all the way east to the Atlantic. Plant one in your garden, travel south or north to see the tree at its color peak. Let the leaves be as they fall so insects can live on from fall to the following spring. Another fall favorite are red maples (acer rubrum) are aptly named and loved for their fall color. Smaller trees like Dogwood (cornus florida), have redish maroon fall leaves. The Chokeberry shrubs (aronia) has sweet smelling flowers, dark berries and vibrant red and purple fall leaves. Sumac bushes (rhus glabra) turn vibrant red and orange. The fuzzy fruit head produces a spice used in Mideastern cuisine. Virginia sweetspire(itea virginica) turns bright orange red in fall. There are many choices of plants that bring the colors of fire into our gardens, parks and forests.

Enjoy the warm colors of fall as the air cools and our gardens move into a too soon winter. Bring fall colors into your garden with the many possibilities of plants that brighten the garden scene. Enjoy the leaves and let them be, in your garden 

Linda Wiggen Kraft is an artist and landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She offers Creativity Journeys, Mandala and Nature Journey workshops. More info is at her website and blog: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com Call her at 314 504-4266