05 November 2007

Foliar fireworks for Guy Fawkes Night

Between watching the kerfuffle over Noel the storm and doing my usual things, I had nearly forgotten that today is Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Day. If you don't remember, Guy Fawkes was a notorious plotter who with a cohort of others planned to overthrow the Protestant Monarchy in 1605 by blowing up the houses of Parliament. Before he could carry out his nefarious deed, however, he and his cohorts were arrested--allegedly as Fawkes was about to light the gunpower with which he planned to blow up the buildings--and were tried and executed in early 1606. Actually, Fawkes jumped from the scaffold where he was to be hung, drawn and quartered--talk about overkill!--and thus escaped the fate of others in the conspiracy.
Tradition says that bonfires of celebration were lit in Britain in relief that the plot had been foiled. In years following, effigies of Fawkes were burned on the bonfires, and the tradition has continued now for four hundred years in parts of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and most curiously (to my mind) in my home and native land of Newfoundland.

I don't remember why it is that Newfoundland (and possibly Labrador) has seized on Guy Fawkes night, which they tend to call Bonfire Night, with such enthusiasm, but it's long been the case. But since it's been many years since I've lived in The Rock of My Heart, I seldom think of the celebration. But earlier today a friend emailed me about Guy Fawkes, and it prompted me to take this little trip through history.
I'm not inclined to light a bonfire, but instead, I walked around the yard this afternoon and looked at the foliar fireworks that are still taking place in spite of this weekend's stormy weather. Most of the hardwood trees around have turned from bright colours to the browns and siennas and ochres of pre-dropping leaves, but some shrubs are still clad in their autumn finery. The Tor spirea at the top of this entry is among my favourites; though I'm planning an entry--and a challenge to fellow bloggers--later this week on a modified NIMY, in which one spirea will play a role, Tor is a definite autumn star.

I regard barberries as among the finest shrubs around. To my mind, they are foliar fireworks all year round, whether in winter, where their naked branches bristle with thorns and remain festooned with crimson fruit, or in summer where they show their finery in an assortment of shades. But autumn is when they leave me breathless with glee, because they show so many colours. This is simply the green Japanese Barberry, flaunting its way through another remarkable show of colour.

And this, on the other hand, is the always-dramatic Rosy Glow; interestingly, I have two specimens of this cultivar, and one is changing colour, while the other is showing its usual remarkable purple/pink and burgundy foliage, along with a few jubilant red berries, of course.

Although not as brilliant in colour as the barberries and spireas, I include this twisted willow (Salix matsudana'Tortuosa') because of the gleeful explosion of its branches, curled and kinked and spiraled; the wind has twisted what leaves still remain into equally contorted shapes, and I'm actually looking forward to seeing the leaves gone so I can admire the shrub, which has put on a lot of new growth this year.

Most of the euphorbias are still holding their own, including this huge specimen of Chameleon euphorbia, which turns some of the most remarkable colours as we go through the gardening year. I love how most of it is now in shades of gold, but one dramatic purple cluster of leaves and bracts still remains.

Gina at My Skinny Garden liked the ice plant I showed yesterday; here's another plant in yet another of the amazing flower colours; not quite as neon as yesterday's plant, but I shall do a post on the delights of ice plants in the future. They look like fireworks to me and are essential in my summer garden--though obviously they haven't realized it's November and they can stop flowering now!

To round out the foliar display, this clump of low-growing sedum caught my eye this afternoon as Tigger and I inspected the garden. Like the ice plant, the sedum is oblivious to the fact that it should be quieting down and going dormant, and is producing richly coloured new growth--tiny new florets of leaves, not the huge explosion of colour of the barberries and euphorbias, but still, a rich and wonderful burst of colour. We thought it was quite marvelous, but when I tried to get closer, Tigger came into the photo, casting shadows and reminding me that he felt it was time to go in for tea. Which we did!

In communities throughout Newfoundland this evening, people will be gathering to light bonfires, drink hot chocolate or coffee and enjoy the cameraderie of an unusual autumn tradition. I'll content myself with lighting a candle here in my office and sharing these foliar fireworks with you all.


  1. I will just have a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fireplace on my tv screen. Thinking bonfire thoughts while listening to the cracking and popping of the fire.

    Nice foilage. Amazing how the foilage just gets better with the crispy air.

  2. I appreciate the help with posting pictures. I have Windows XP on my computer.

  3. Remember, remember the fifth of November etc... we used to say this at school and eat candy. So I've always associated Guy Fawkes Day with candy and this verse that we'd chant over and over again.

    I guess the bonfire lighting must have been left on the east coast ... my great-grandfather arrived in Sask. to homestead from Newfoundland.

    The barberries and ice plants and the twisted willow and well, everything in your garden looks wonderful ... and quite exotic. We are heading into the real frosts (-14c predicted tonight) and there are very few leaves left on any trees or shrubs. It is definitely showing signs of winter here, although a friend says we won't have snow for a few more weeks. I don't believe him...

    I'm glad you're back after Noel!

  4. Oooh... it's cold enough for me to really want a good bonfire here, but I much prefer your foliar fireworks. Lovely photos as always--and I'm jealous of all of your fall color!

    (I'm so afraid that it will snow and blow and tear all of the leaves away before we get to enjoy a good show here, since it's so late. My oakleaf hydrangea hasn't even thought about turning purple yet, I swear!)

  5. Happy Bonfire Night Jodi! I find it very amusing that this essentially very British occasion is celerated in Newfoundland too. Perhaps you celebrate it to liven up the dull weeks before Christmas?

    I love the fireworks in your garden, the Tor spirea is gorgeous and, like you, I'm a fan of barberries too.

    It's good to have a Tigger around to remind you that it's time for tea. What would you do without him? Love his autumn colour too. ;-)

    And yes, both Kadootje and her mum Surprise help me with re-arranging my indoor autumn displays, bless them. ;-)

  6. These photos are just beautiful. Especially love the twisty one! So wildly intriguing. :)

    Enjoy your celebration. And thank you for sharing some of it with us.

  7. Great visual post! I especially like the color of those daisy- type flowers.-We've got a black cat that looks much like yours.

  8. I was just passing through and had to stop and admire your wonderful pictures. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I feel as though I've just had a leisurely visit with a nice lady "just up the street." Have a great day!

  9. hello it s the first time i visit your blog ,you ve got beatiful picture and story s to ,i ve got a gardenersblog to ,but also i write about other things in my live ,i love to make photo s en make slideshows and i love decoration ,greetings rom holland ina p

  10. Kris at Blithewold06 November, 2007 13:47

    Jodi, You may convert me to barberries yet - and make me rue the day I had a 25' hedge ripped out at considerable expense. (I still bear the scars from first trying to rip it out myself...) Beautiful bonfires at your house - and just think you can keep enjoying the blaze with no danger of burning the house down!

  11. Love the latest photos, so beautiful and peaceful. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  12. I love the colors of the barberry. It's amazing how many different shades they produce. I love the twisted willow it's got a wonderful whimsical halloween type shape to it. Yet another beautiful ice plant! I'm really needing to get me one from seeing all your pictures.

  13. Those ice plants are positively fluorescent in color! How beautiful! If anyone had told you they (or much else) would still be in bloom in NOvember, would you have believed it? What a fall we've had.

    I so enjoy your posts...I always feel soothed after reading your blog. Next summer, I would love to see your gardens during one of the days you open them to the public. :)

  14. I can't believe I don't have a single Ice Plant in my gardens! Note to self: get some next year!

  15. Hi everyone and welcome to bloomingwriter....

    Lisa, hot chocolate is always a good idea...the foliage is now fading rapidly on most trees, but the shrubs are still holding on, some of them.

    NJDD glad to help, I don't speak PC computer but hopefully it was some assistance.

    Kate, yes, I remember that chant, the other thing that is traditional with Guy Fawkes is the 'Penny for the Guy"...collecting that kids, mostly in Britain would do to collect money for fireworks, wood for the bonfire, candy, etc. I don't think it was ever done in Nfld, but I don't remember.
    Real frost should be coming here too, soon, but who knows when we'll get snow.

    Kim, a lot of people are reporting late leaf colour. The Embers hydrangea I got this year turned spectacular colours, (and I didn't photograph it before the wind tore off its leaves, darn) but then Limelight is still very green. And my magnolias are also still green, not gold like others are reporting.

    Yolanda Elizabet, Newfoundland has a lot of connection to Great Britain, because so many of her people came from various parts of that nation, and brought their traditions; and of course the province didn't join Canada until 1949, so was part of Britain's colonies, and that may have made traditions hoold on longer.
    Kadootje is just so sweet...I love how our cats like to 'help' with things around the house....;-)
    Sarita Leone, glad you could visit!

    Larry, hi and welcome...I think the iceplants are a real hit with readers! Black cats are wonderful, but hard to photograph sometimes.

    Anon, hi and welcome, come back any time.

    Ina, hello and welcome...I'll come visit your blog soon, have some articles to clear off my desk too.

    Kris, didn't you know I'm part of the barberry conspiracy...;-) And yes, no real bonfires although my longsuffering spouse is threatening to burn the trash pile down by the pasture...

    Katt, hi and welcome, I'll get to visit you soon.

    Vanillalotus I think the ice plants have had more comments than any other plant...special post coming one of these grey days to brighten everyone's screen.

    Nancy, it's been an odd fall, to be sure, but now, I'm actually getting to want colder weather and the garden to go to sleep.

    MMD, you're funny! Maybe we should put CSI or Cold Case on the Guy Fawkes case? :-)

    Kylee, I think everyone is wanting ice plants next year...have I mentioned that I LOVE the foliage, too?

  16. I just discovered your blog via the "Blogs of Note" page--and I have to say that it was an incredibly happy chance. My family hails (from its earliest on this continent) from Pugwash, but I've only been to NS once before, in the '70s (I watched Nixon resign in Halifax). At any rate, what struck me most besides the sea views was the gardening. I'm looking forward to spending time browsing through your blog, even though I doubt that my own North Texas garden struggles will lessen (out of envy, mostly). Thanks for a terribly interesting read.

  17. Hank the Lake County Clerk recently waxed poetic over barberry, too, Jodi.

    Your photos are tempting, but I'd need a lot more space before letting them in! In a small garden you see them planted close to walks or fences, and the constant pruning means wounds on the hands of the person doing the gardening. I'll bet they're gorgeous when allowed to grow naturally.

    I liked your explanation of Guy Fawkes day - one of those things I've read about but never knew anyone who had celebrated it.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  18. Jodi, thank you so much for finally explaining Guy Fawkes Day to me! And I think the people in Newfoundland were just looking for an excuse to have a bonfire... I know I always do! ;) And hot chocolate isn't bad either, now that I think about it. Thank you for sharing your wonderful fall foliage as well. Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

  19. You know, my mom hates barberry for some reason. I know she hates the thorns. We have several shrubs of it and I like it. Some are dwarfs, but one that we've had for many years has grown to be a nice-sized burgundy that I've not paid a lot of attention to. One of those things that's "always been there" and it has a flashy burning bush next to it that hogs all the attention in the fall. But since you've mentioned them, I've taken another look at the barberry and it's really really pretty! Thanks!


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