October Gold and Blue

White oaks shine against a cloudless October sky.

Bur oaks (Quercus macrocarpa) shine against a cloudless October sky.

The fleeting season of gold and blue arrived in central Minnesota last week. The golden hues of bitternut hickory, bur oak, aspen and ash glow against a sky the color of a newly opened morning glory — a shade unique to autumn. Along the Snake River in Pine County, MN, the steely blue-gray wings of a great blue heron swoop over the sparkling water.

A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) swoops over the Snake River in east central Minnesota.

A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) swoops over the Snake River in east central Minnesota.

Sky blue morning glories continue to bloom in October.

Heavenly blue (Ipomea purpurea) morning glories continue to bloom in October.

Closer to the ground, the last of the powder-blue bottle gentians and asters — some with center disks as bold as the sun — bloom among the grasses. Fallen aspen leaves accent walkways, and the heart-shaped leaves of the carrion flower vine wind their tendrils skyward. In a few days, this lovely combination will dampen down to more muted tones, the gentle softness that insulates the earth for winter’s palette of black and white.

Bottle gentian blooms (Gentiana andrewsii) turn dark and dry out as their seeds mature.

Bottle gentian blooms (Gentiana andrewsii) turn dark and dry out as their seeds mature.

Asters (Symphyotrichum novi-begii) provide nectar to these hoverflies and many other autumn insects.

Asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) provide nectar to these hoverflies, or syrphids, and many other autumn insects.

Aspen leaves and moss decorate a walkway at our cabin.

Quaking aspen leaves (Populus tremuloides) and moss decorate a walkway at our cabin.

The heart-shaped leaves of the carrion flower (Smilax herbacea) add light and color to the October woods.

The heart-shaped leaves of the carrion flower vine (Smilax herbacea) add light and color to the October woods.

 

In The Garden

Late afternoon; the August sun radiates its heat into my shoulders and back.  Ripe beacon apples hang on the tree in our yard bathed in sunlight and smell sweet.  Normally, cicada buzzing would be the main sound, but they are mostly absent this year.  Mourning doves coo, a young cardinal calls to be fed by its parents, and a few bumble bees drone in red monarda and Russian sage.

The showiest flowers today are garden phlox, black-eyed Susan’s and sneezeweed (helenium).  My favorite garden phlox is ‘Katherine’ with its lavender petals surrounding white centers, or ‘eyes’, as they’re called in the gardening catalogs.

phlox 'Katherine' and black-eyed Susan's

Phlox ‘Katherine’ and black-eyed Susan’s

I planted the sneezeweed this past spring.  The variety is ‘tie dye’.  The yellow centers are surrounded by petals that begin maroon and deep gold.  The older blossoms have chocolate-brown centers and the petals are fading to a lighter yellow and deep pink as they age.

Sneezeweed or helenium, variety 'tie dye'

Sneezeweed or helenium, variety ‘tie dye’

The perennial blue lobelia blossomed late last week and the first purple morning glory peaked through a tangle of daylily fronds and allium stems this morning.  Morning glories always signify late summer for me, and I heard my first cricket of the year a few evenings ago; another sure sign of seasonal change.

Perennial lobelia

Perennial lobelia

IMG_366morning glory

Morning Glory