Fall foliage
Thimbleberries Quilting for harvest : 20 great projects from harvest to Halloween
by Lynette Jensen.
Urbandale, IA : Landauer, 2006.
Late summer flowers
Marina Christopher ; photographs by Steven Wooster ; introduction by Dan Pearson.
Portland, OR : Timber Press, Inc., c2006.
While gardeners may be happy enough with their gardens in spring and early summer, few feel so confident about prolonging the display. This book shows how to extend the blooming season by choosing the right plants that will help make it possible to get the best from the garden in late summer and autumn.
Fall foliage : the mystery, science, and folklore of autumn leaves
Charles W.G. Smith ; photographs by Frank Kaczmarek.
Guilford, Conn. : Falcon Guide, c2005.
This colorful and authoritative guide answers commonly asked questions about fall foliage. "Why do trees change color?" "What kind of leaf is that?" "Where are the best displays of fall foliage and how do I know when to go?"
Autumn : a spiritual biography of the season
edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch ; illustrations by Mary Azarian.
Woodstock, Vt. : SkyLight Paths Pub., c2004.
Autumn, with all its traditional images of colorful trees, frost-covered pumpkins, and piles of wood stored up against winter's cold, can be a season filled with anticipation. The imminent onset of cold and snow, the resumption of old routines, and the beginning of the school year all require some preparation and planning. If summer has been something of a pause, autumn helps us to see the passage of time more clearly. Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season reveals the season's reflection of our own lives. Autumn is a season of fruition and harvest, of thanksgiving and celebration of abundance and goodness of the earth. But it is also a season that starkly and realistically encourages us to see the limitations of our time. Contributors include Wendell Berry, David James Duncan, Robert Frost, A. Bartlett Giamatti, P. D. James, Julian of Norwich, Garret Keizer, Tracy Kidder, Anne Lamott, May Sarton, and E. B. White.

One of the recurring pleasures of living in a temperate climate is being able to experience a regularly changing progression of seasons. The buds and leaves of spring are exhilarating, but for sheer flamboyant display, nothing really equals the fall foliage effects.

Peak time

Missouri's fall color season usually lasts four to six weeks, from mid-September to its peak in mid-October.

That's plenty of time for scenic drives along the Great River Road or through Wine Country and the Arcadia Valley.

Follow Missouri's fall colors.

Sugar maple leaf

Autumn leaf colors are like the weather; they can be described and plotted, but its awfully difficult to reliably predict them.

To oversimplify, color change is related to the process of photosynthesis, through which trees nourish themselves.  Chlorophyll, a key factor in photosynthesis, provides the growing-season green color. When days shorten, it sends the trees a signal that feeding time is ending. Chlorophyll production is reduced, and soon stops entirely. What becomes visible are the yellow and orange pigments that were in the leaves all along, but masked. (Red and purple can also appear, related to complicated late-season sugar transfers.)

So what produces a glowing autumn? As with department stores, the general rule is "location, location, location." The same tree that would be drab in Germany will be incandescent in Vermont. Certain portions of the temperate zones are home to regularly riotous color displays. Yellows are merely subtractive, and remain fairly constant year after year.  Reds are more volatile and are found most readily when the spring has been wet and warm, summer has not been excessively dry, and the fall features sunny days and cool (but not freezing) nights.

It is not very difficult to give nature a hand.  We can plant trees and surround ourselves with varieties that will not go gently into that good winter.  Four excellent choices for this area:

  • Ginkho. A lovely clear yellow that appears overnight.
  • Sugar maple. The New England classic; bright reds are common and stand out.
  • Sweet gum. Thick, sculputral green leaves turn into autumn yellow, red, burgundy--often all on the same tree.
  • Sumac. A normally unassertive little tree that surprisingly takes on some of the gaudier shades of red and scarlet.

Missouri invariably produces impressive fall coloring; when all the right factors click into place, the effect can be downright magical.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff