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Heads-up! Things fall during fall

November 1, 2013
By H.I JEAN SHIELDS ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

It is the nature of things. The big beautiful, spreading frangipani tree now has its leaves falling all over. They look pretty ugly lying there but that is what happens, in the fall. You just crunch them all up with the lawn mower.

Crepe myrtles will have a bed of fallen leaves at their base also some smaller plants just die right down and disappear over our short fall and winter season. Gardeners with a short memory would do well to make a note of where certain things are right now before they disappear. I have a beautiful blood lily that I play hide and seek with every year, and it is even in a pot.

It is a nature thing, these trees are deciduous. Meaning they will always be losing their leaves every fall. Make note of that when you are planning your landscape.

It does get discouraging sometimes to see so many fallen leaves all over the yard, some people even call it messy and avoid things that they know are deciduous.

I sure am not one of those people. How could I ever give up the beautiful spreading canopy of my frangipani tree? Just to keep the yard clear of leaf clutter, I do cut the grass every week - leaf clutter's not a problem with me. I do have a perpetual clutter problem in my lifestyle, so maybe I look at things a little differently than others. The striking sight of slender dark limbs quietly silhouetted against a cool blue winter sky is artsy to me, especially when it is a line of delicate crepe myrtle trees.

We all talk about using yard art, well just enjoy the many turns and twists of a bare frangipani tree as a piece of yard art. Yard art that will not have to be relocated, or painted, just enjoyed until spring when its canopy will slowly be born again and the new green leaves are supporting lovely clusters of pink, yellow and white blossoms. The slightly fragrant clusters make a beautiful accent setting in a glass container of some kind that will allow the large cluster to be the center of attraction. They will need some water and will last more than one day.

Deciduous means more than just seasonal loss of nice green leaves.

There is a difference between the North and the South, in many ways. Deciduous times are one of those differences.

What and when and why deciduous things happen is interesting, however the whole story is much too long for this column. Our interest is tropical deciduous happenings. To learn about trees and their sap goings on, check the computer.

Thank goodness all of our palm trees do not suddenly drop palm fronds all over the ground. It's bad enough they loosen and dangle about just when you want the yard to look nice. A 5-pound-plus royal palm frond is not something we need to be worrying about all fall either.

When does fall really began as far as nature is concerned? Our calendar will tell us "hey, look, this is the first day of fall." However, this year the frangipani leaves did not start falling. One reason is that Mother Nature does not pay any attention to our calendar. Her rules are ever changing. A big rainy season, leaves stay on longer; a big dry season, leaves fall off faster. The tree does not need to be hanging on

to those dry ol' leaves, they are not helping the tree one bit, drop them.

A semi-deciduous tree will start dropping its old leaves to make room for new growth. It does not have to be fall.

Think of deciduous next time a grandchild's baby teeth fall out to make way for new stronger teeth. The same for some animals. The antlers of a deer are only replaced so that new growth can start. Deciduous is a natural process in many areas of our life that we do not consider. Getting rid of an old spouse for a new one is not considered a deciduous event. You do have to be careful how you use the English language, even in gardening.

I always liked the fall colors up North, but we do have fall colors in our tropical area, and they do not necessarily drop any leaves.

Check out the several medians around the Cape that are showcasing big mounds of mushily grass. Their 3 x 3-foot spread makes a noticeable planting for medians.

The pastel pink or purple coloring of this delicately waving grass is very attractive at this time of year. The spring and summer months it sits quietly un-noticed as a bright green mound. It will decline and become brown during late fall.

It is a great ground cover for dry areas with lots of space. It does well without a lot of watering. It is not totally drought tolerant and may need some water during a real dry spell. It does not need much fertilizer, a light dusting about twice a year of general fertilizer, or even lawn fertilizer. It sets seed as it declines and benefits from cutting back in early spring to keep it in shape. Watch the medians to catch the routine.

Right now the golden rain tree is still showing off its lovely colors of bright yellow. There's a lot of them all around.

The more you look for some color, the more you will find.

Speaking of watching your calendar, watch for the Nov. 3 note that says Daylight Savings time ends. Remember to fall back one hour. Setting the clock correctly on Saturday night makes getting to church on time Sunday morning easy.

Happy gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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