Fall officially arrived this year on September 22 with the Autumn Equinox, but after a blistering heat wave early this month, the early rain and comparatively cool weather already feels like a change of season. Around the garden, we’re seeing that the plants are also starting to undergo a shift, with leaves changing color and in some cases, even starting to drop.
Every year, deciduous plants lose their leaves as they prepare for the shorter, colder days of winter. While we generally think of this transformation happening as the temperature drops, plants also get the message that it’s time to get ready for the next season from the diminishing hours of daylight. Here in Northern California where summer weather can continue through October, it can feel incongruous to enjoy
warm sunshine while surrounded by fall color; since the plants don’t observe Daylight Savings, they are clocking the shorter days even though it may not feel like Pumpkin Spice season.
Things do look a little different this September. Despite the unusually heavy rains last fall, the years-long drought is still having an effect.
Plants don’t all respond the same way, of course. Elsewhere on the grounds another dogwood is still quite green and lush, but if you look closely you’ll see it has already produced bright red berries. Before long, the Dawn redwood will start to fade, as one of the few deciduous conifers, it goes from green to brown in the fall which is no cause for alarm about the tree’s health. It’s worth remembering that the early leaf loss we’re seeing after summer’s last blast of heat is just an acceleration of the typical cycle, and we expect spring to bring new foliage as it does every year.