Fall color at the entrance to our driveway

Mother Nature’s Paintbrush has been pretty active in my area. This Fall season in Virginia has been one of the most colorful in a number of years. Here’s my Fall Color 2014 photo series.

Fall color at the entrance to our driveway

Fall color at the entrance to our driveway

We received 35 inches of rain so far this year according to my outdoor weather station. The abundant rainfall directly contributes to the vivid coloring of the leaves on the trees.

My outdoor weather station measures daily precipitation

My outdoor weather station measures daily precipitation

Probably my favorite tree on our property is the stately Japanese bloodgood maple that graces the front entrance to our home. This tree’s leaves turn a deep burgundy in the Spring, then change to a bright green in the Summer and then change to a vivid apricot color in the Fall before changing to a deep red and falling to the ground.

My gorgeous bloodgood maple turns lovely colors all year round

My gorgeous bloodgood maple turns lovely colors all year round

My Bloodgood Maple in all its Fall glory

My Bloodgood Maple in all its Fall glory

My Bloodgood Maple in apricot color

My Bloodgood Maple in apricot color

My second favorite tree on our property is this hickory tree. Although the squirrels just love to throw the hickory nuts down onto the driveway for later burying, and it causes a mess on the driveway, I still love it. This hickory tree turns an almost iridescent yellow. Just totally stands out from the other trees. And this year the native dogwoods turned a deep blood red color, almost purple. Again, the result of so much rainfall this year.

Gorgeous hickory tree turns a bright golden yellow

Gorgeous hickory tree turns a bright golden yellow

My Autumn Princess azaleas tend to bloom in the Spring and then in the Fall. They are supposed to be three season bloomers, starting in Spring and going through Fall, yet I haven’t seen many blooms during the summer months. They are a pretty reddish pink color and stand out nicely against the green around them.

Autumn Princess azaleas are in bloom.  Leaf cleanup in progress.

Autumn Princess azaleas are in bloom. Leaf cleanup in progress.

I planted about 10 Japanese maples that came from a tree that graces my parents’ front yard. These trees turn very vivid colors each Fall. It’s interesting that this Fall, although the trees are different ages, they each turned very different colors. Two were a very vivid red, some were a purplish color and others were more yellow-orange. Very interesting.

Four of the same Japanese maple variety turning different colors at different times in the fall

Four of the same Japanese maple variety turning different colors at different times in the fall

Gorgeous vivid red Japanese maple next to my ponds

Gorgeous vivid red Japanese maple next to my ponds

The view from my upper deck over my vivid red Japanese maples

The view from my upper deck over my vivid red Japanese maples

My climbing hydrangea vines turned a lovely shade of yellow-gold before their leaves turned brown and dropped to the ground.

Climbing hydrangeas are turning golden yellow in autumn

Climbing hydrangeas are turning golden yellow in autumn

One afternoon when I was taking photographs, a huge flock of blackbirds flew into my property and landed on the front lawn. Here’s a view of some of them:

A flock of blackbirds arrived in my front yard one afternoon

A flock of blackbirds arrived in my front yard one afternoon

What colors did you see in your garden this Fall? Leave a comment and let us know your favorites!

Colorful maple leaves

Autumn is upon us. It’s time for Fall Yard Cleanup in the garden! The leaves are falling, perennials are fizzling out, ornamental grasses are at their peak, and annuals are finishing up their blooms before the first frost.

Fall Yard Cleanup – courtesy oregonlive.com

There are several schools of thought regarding leaf cleanup in the garden. Some gardeners prefer to maintain a constant mulch of leaf matter on the soil. Others prefer complete leaf clean-up. I do recommend that you remove all leaves from your grassy lawn areas. Leaves will stifle grass growth, and will leave bare pockets in the lawn if not removed. You can use a mulching lawn mower to chop up the leaves and integrate them as a nutrient into your lawn. If your lawn mower has a bag, remove the bag and leave the grass and leaf clippings on the lawn to break down into the soil.

Excess brush and branches should be cleaned up as well. Collect some small branches as kindling for your chiminea or outdoor fire pit, as well as for your indoor wood-burning fireplace.

Electric or gas-powered lawn equipment can certainly assist you during Fall Cleanup. Chippers, shredders, and mulchers are at your service to chop up excess leaves and brush into more manageable uses. Additionally, you will want to have a set of yard cleanup tools in your garage or shed that you can also use year-round.

Falling leaves — Time for fall yard cleanup!

Here’s my wish list of fall yard cleanup tools and equipment (click on highlighted words for more info and examples):

Leaf Blower
Leaf Vacuum
Leaf and Brush Shredder
Wood Chipper
Gloves
Leaf Rake
Shovel
Leaf Bags and Portable Refuse Collection Bags

Local leaf collection in Leesburg, VA courtesy of LeesburgPatch.com

Get your kids to help out, and pull your neighbors together for a Saturday fall cleanup day in your subdivision or community. It’s amazing how much work can be done quickly with lots of hands to help out.

Colorful maple leaves

A curious frog comes closer

Frogs! Who doesn’t love frogs? They have their own funny personalities and are integral to a water garden’s survival. Frogs eat insects and contribute to the ecosystem in the pond. And they are great fun to watch!

My Ponds Project brought all sorts of frogs to my garden. In fact, during my rebuilding of my front pond in A Water Gardening Remake project, a leopard frog was so excited that it jumped into the water as I was filling the pond basin — and refused to come back out!

A frog sits on the edge of the waterfall, enjoying the rushing water, in this video below.

Frogs have such funny personalities. This frog seems to be the “lead frog” in my backyard’s bottom pond. Lots of croaking and hopping around. There are four frogs visible in this video, including a small bullfrog that recently lost its tail, and had overwintered as a giant tadpole in the pond. Watch this video below.

Here’s a photo of the bullfrog tadpole that overwintered in the pond.

A bullfrog tadpole that was born in October and overwintered in the pond

A bullfrog tadpole that was born in October and overwintered in the pond

This curious frog below just made me laugh. I was filming the croaking frog and then looked down, and this one was about 6 inches from where I was sitting next to the pond. Too cute.

A curious frog comes closer

A curious frog comes closer

Tree frogs are also in abundance in our area. Usually, during an evening rainstorm, the tree frogs become extremely loud, chirping and chirping to each other. This gray tree frog was sitting on my wrought iron patio chair.

A gray tree frog sits patiently on a patio chair

A gray tree frog sits patiently on a patio chair

If you want frogs to come to your garden, build a water feature! They will come within a few days. Here’s a view of my backyard ponds.

Two of my back yard ponds from The Ponds Project

Two of my back yard ponds from The Ponds Project

Based on a visit to my front pond last summer and seeing the frogs in residence, my next door neighbors embarked on a pond building excursion of their own. This year, frogs arrived, and laid eggs in their pond. The tadpoles are still swimming around, so no adult frogs yet. Their pond gets far more sun than mine, and is larger. A lily pad is flowering for the first time this week!

The lily pad blooms in my neighbors' new pond

The lily pad blooms in my neighbors’ new pond (Photo Credit: C. Mattusch)

Do you have frogs in your garden? How did yours arrive? Do you have a water feature? Leave a comment and let us know!