This fall has been wonderful when it comes to foliage colour on trees and shrubs; the colours are so rich and brilliant and the leaves have persisted so well. It’s all because we’ve had ideal conditions for fall colour; cool nights but no hard, hard frosts and several bright sunny days during October.
In my own garden the “Autumn Purple” white ash (Fraxinus americana) was lit up with never-before-seen shades of yellow and orange, along with its usual burgundy. It was truly a picture.
Although there are some thirty species of ash native to North America there are only a few used in landscapes, and you would have to do some detective work to spot many in the Okanagan. For reasons I can’t fathom ash don’t seem to be high on the list for gardeners, landscape architects or municipalities, which is a pity because they are generally handsome trees.
I spent the third week of October in Vancouver visiting our daughter and as always I was very impressed with the number of trees planted along the city streets. In her neighbourhood an entire block featured “Autumn Applause” white ash, and the effect was dazzling in the autumn afternoon sunshine (yes, it was sunny!).
In many colder Canadian cities “Fallgold” black ash (Fraxinus nigra) is used as a street tree due to its hardiness and compact growth habit. This particular variety is well-named as its fall colour is an intense golden-yellow. The Morden Research Station in Manitoba introduced several years ago “Northern Treasure” and “Northern Gem,” two cultivars from a cross of the black ash and Manchurian Ash (Fraxinus mandschurica) which are naturally very hardy and also feature good yellow fall colour.
Fraxinus pennsylvanica is the most widely-planted ash species in North American landscapes, but again you rarely see cultivars here in the valley. “Patmore” is the best known. “Cimarron” features good brick-red autumn tones.
My daughter and I visited the University of British Columbia Botanical Gardens one day during my visit and I was struck by the lovely wine red colour of the foliage of Fraxinus oxycarpa “Raywood” planted in the garden. I knew of this tree but had no idea the fall colour was so striking. It has much narrower leaves than other types, with slender branches giving it a very refined appearance. Alas, the tree is only hardy to Zone 6, so it will only survive in the warmest parts of our valley.
I’ve been thinking about “bucket lists” in the past week and how we shouldn’t wait to do things that are important in our lives. This was brought on by a bucket list trip to Seattle with my daughter and a friend and his daughter to see Journey (Don’t Stop Believin’) in concert. It was a fabulous show.
But my backyard ash tree reminded me graphically how we should act while the opportunity presents itself. I came home on the morning of the 24th after running some errands in town to a lovely scene in my garden; the sun streaming through the ash tree and into the rest of the garden. It was so perfect that I ran inside, grabbed my camera and snapped off several shots.
That afternoon a cold front moved through the valley and the winds were gusting to 50 km/h. At least two-thirds of the tree’s leaves were on the ground after the storm passed. The moment was gone but I had captured it before it passed. Children grow up, circumstances change, opportunities pass. Carpe diem!

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