Monday, November 30, 2009

The End of Fall

As a transplanted northerner, I have mixed feelings about winter here in Texas. Many times, the weather is glorious but I miss the snow—or at least the idea of snow—and cold. This year November has been more beautiful than I can ever remember, with clear pleasant days and crisp evenings. It is as if we are being rewarded for suffering through the wettest October in memory. Only the shortness of the days reminds me that we are indeed approaching the winter equinox.

I feel as though I have cheated somehow. By now I should be suffering in the cold and shoveling snow off the driveway. For a Midwesterner, it seems more than I deserve, which makes me feel almost guilty about enjoying the weather. Only the fact that the squirrels ate my winter garden makes me feel that I’m not cheating nature too badly.

We do pay in part for the nice weather in the loss of fall color. Texas fall scenery is pleasant, but lacks the brilliancy of the leaves turning in the north.

The oaks, especially, don’t turn bright red but instead some mixture of red and green that I would call mahogany and the color remains for many weeks.

Bradford pears, an ornamental that don’t produce fruit, for most of the year are an unassuming tree with little to recommend them, but twice each year, in the spring and in the fall, they are transformed, first by flowers and then by color.

The yellow of cedar elms contrasts well with the predominant reds and browns of Texas fall foliage. I only wish we had the aspens of the mountain west, which are brighter yet.

Finally, hackberries, usually regarded as a trash tree around Dallas, have leaves that turn yellow brown and contrast well with their distinctive mottled gray bark.

As November ends and December begins, we will lose the last of our fall color even here in Dallas and it’s likely that we will have enough cold so that I can feel at least a touch of the Midwestern virtue in surviving it. In little more than three weeks, however, the days will start to grow longer and by February it will be time to start gardening.

The shortness of the winter is all to the good, in my opinion, although the length of the gardening season is too long for me. At least a couple of weeks of cold and snow—fresh snow makes even the yard of the worst garden look perfect—would make a nice break from sunny days and my yard would be the equal of any here in town, if only for a day.

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