Manitoba Gold – Fall Colours

I grew up in Quebec where fall colours are celebrated. As a child I recall how the radio announcer would breathlessly advise us that this week the colours were declared to be at their peak. My parents would take us on a drive to the Laurentians to see the display. During our full time travel trailer life, my husband and I moved slowly south and we got to enjoy those fall colours beginning in Boston and moving south for nearly nine weeks before we reached Florida. Part of our journey overlapped with a formal RVer tour that began in Newfoundland and followed the leaves south to Florida. The participants just raved about how great that trip was.

Fall in Manitoba is different and a bit of a disappointment by comparison. One reason is that there are no full sized trees that turn flaming red and purple the way it happens in the east. Here the colour of the tallest trees is invariably gold tones. Red and purple and deep oranges are only found in the understory. Plus, with a few exceptions Manitoba is so flat. There is no display climbing the mountain sides. Once I got used to the difference, I began to appreciate Manitoba’s subtler fall scenery. This week the colours are in full glorious display. I am enjoying this beauty a lot more this year.

This little tree is a hardy apricot. It is supposed to produce apricots when it matures even growing in our fridge Zone 3a region. I bought two of them for the possibility of my husband’s favourite fruit, assuming we should live so long. Imagine my delight to discover this little apricot tree turns as brilliant an orange as any of the finest oranges in Quebec. Planting this tree was an act of faith in our future.
This bush is turning from the top down. It almost looks like it is on fire. The green spruce beside it was only six inches tall when we moved in. It doesn’t seem like our fifth fall here already but it is.
Here is an example of how reds are limited to the understory in Manitoba. These vines are as red and lovely as any Quebec maple. You just have to look down not up to find red.
The tamarack, a close relative of the Siberian larch, is a native tree that tolerates wet. After having two regal evergreens die in this low spot always damp to soaked, I put a tamarack seedling in instead. It has thrived. The tamarack turns a brilliant gold in the fall, drops its needles, and then grows new ones in the spring. This little tree is halfway to gold now and is the prettiest bright yellow/green.
My neighbour’s glorious paper birches turn a particularly brilliant gold bringing me much pleasure in fall. Bonus: I don’t have to rake those leaves.
I took this picture on a very windy day. I didn’t see the bumblebee taking shelter there until afterward. Clever bee, shelter and food in one spot. The sunflower is a wonderful contrast of yellow and brown. I plant Russian giants every year and almost always have a few blooming in the fall. I leave them standing through the winter and the birds always pick the seeds clean.
This aging apple tree is called by the locals here a “throwing apple” tree. It sits on the edge of our property looking more wretched and miserable each year. The apples taste like wood and have a texture only slightly better than sawdust, hence they are good for nothing but throwing. Once the fruit has frozen, it gets soft, slightly ferments and sweetens. Still unfit for humans, deer love to come into town to eat them in winter. The tree goes from green straight to brown but the apples have a lovely soft peach tinted orange this time of year, adding a cheerful variation on the fall colours. So we let it continue its slow decline because of its redeeming qualities.

I see some parallels with my fall experience and my own aging. When I think only of the beautiful fall colours I had in my youth in another place and time, Manitoba gold seems subdued, less. But when I stop comparing this to my memories of the past and concentrate on what I have here and now, Manitoba Gold is stunning and wonderful.

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