This patch of colorful Boston ivy runs the expanse of a brick-backed building in downtown Albany. In the spring the leaves start out in a bright chartreuse green, the kind that looks phenomenal against a red brick façade bordered by a blue sky. As summer arrives, those leaves deepen into a thick and glossy evergreen shade, dark and lush and still set off to gorgeous effect by the earthy brick. Now, those leaves are putting on their finest show, in an undulating spectrum of color which, when taken as a whole, looks like some beautiful topographical map (I see Greenland). Nestled between buildings, this is one of those hidden gems that most Capital Region folks will not have the pleasure of witnessing in person, and my sad iPhone photo scarcely does it justice, but hopefully you get the idea. There is beauty all around us if we look closely enough.
Some people, myself once included, give up when the first hard frosts fell the tender foliage and flowers, but I’ve since learned that micro-climates save some precious flowers (we’ve had roses in the snow before), and certain flowers have the hardiness to weather a few frosts (the Lenten Rose and the furry-leaved sage are two such performers). In other words, there will be secret surprises that could feasibly push into December if we are lucky to continue in this vein of kind weather.
In my own backyard, the leaves are putting on a fine, albeit extremely late, show this year. The coral bark Japanese maples were the first to turn – their intricately-edged leaves a creamy yellow against those brilliant coral stems. The Chinese dogwoods went next – yellows and salmons and apricots illuminating their branches, especially resplendent in the slanting afternoon sunlight, and further punctuating the strawberry-like pinks of their fruit. The traditional Japanese maples are on the verge of bursting into flame, slowly smoldering from a rich burgundy into a searing scarlet that looks lit from within. Changing this late in the game is risky business, as the closer we get to a very hard frost, the closer they get to shriveling up and falling before they get to develop their richest shade. I thought for sure the cold nights we had a couple of weeks ago would end the show, but with this recent spate of warm weather they’ve been able to ripen into their full glorious red. Being late occasionally pays off. (Just don’t tell any of my friends. They’re late enough.)