It is here! That time of year when you have to check the weather each morning to decide how to dress…will it be cold, or unseasonably warm? This summer was like no other, cold when it should have been hot, rain for weeks straight, then dry for more than a month. But, we live in Illinois and would expect no less. Recently, our 15 year old nephew came to stay with us for a week from California. He liked to tell us how boring Illinois is, what with no mountains, sun, palm trees or wildfires. He was absolutely freezing and complained that our weather last week was like winter in California. I tried to convince him of all the beauty here, but am not sure that I made any head way. Here are my reasons for loving fall in the Kankakee River Valley:
- Today it might be cold, but tomorrow it will probably be sunny and eighty degrees. It seems like anything might happen. The mystery is part of the beauty.
- Corn and soybeans. Trevor’s favorite joke was to ask me, “What is this crop?” at every field we passed. While that was his way of telling me how boring this area is, to me it means continuity. I always feel close to home when I see those gorgeous ears of corn change from standing up proudly to dangling close to the stalk, like a pregnant woman with a heavy burden. It also reminds me of how fortunate we are to have such fertile soil in our region.
- The changing of foliage from green to yellow, red, orange, scarlet, or purple makes my heart go pitter patter. It is the time of year when Maples justify themselves for not having showy flowers and the Black Gums tell us, “this is what you have been waiting for all year.” All gracing us with their best, so in the winter we can remember how beautiful they were before they lost their “clothes”.
- Every fall we head down to Champaign to pick apples. Cool, crisp, sweeter than honey apples. Another reminder of the abundance the Midwest provides. While we are there we always walk the University of Illinois campus, where I earned my horticulture degree, and pretend to be students…although I don’t think we are fooling anyone these days.
- I could go on more, but my favorite part of fall is planting trees! We planted quite a few trees this year, a Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica), several apricots, and lots of small fruits. But, I still have plans to do lots of planting this fall. Please, don’t tell my husband yet! On my list are ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ Spruce ( Picea pungens ‘Baby Blue Eyes’), Pin Oaks (Quercus palustris), an ‘Imperial’ Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia tricanthos var. inermis ‘Impcole’), blueberries, Asian Pears, and ‘Honeycrisp’ Apples.
Fall is great for planting! Most plants will enjoy the cooler temperatures and be ready to start rooting next spring, before it is dry enough for us to begin digging. That means that your new tree will be less stressed next summer. Your new tree will still have to watered as though it had just been planted, but watering is easy when you put yourself on a schedule.
Remember, fall is for planting. So maybe this is the year that you start a new family tradition of coming out to Tholens’ Garden Center, picking out a gorgeous tree and planting it as a family. Then you can add that to your list of why you love fall in Illinois!
B.S. Ornamental Horticulture, 6 year employee of Tholens’ Landscape & Garden Center & Plant Enthusiast
P.S. Need an even bigger reason to plant a tree? Starting September 18, 2009, all spring dug trees will be 25% off!