Colours of Fall

One of the very few things Mother Nature does poorly here in BC is any sort of display of autumn colour. I still remember the leaves of my childhood in Montreal and the Eastern Townships. Even as a colour-jaded 9-year-old (damn those vivid Saturday morning cartoons!), I was impressed.

Here, better than half our trees are evergreens to begin with, which is kind of nice come January when the rest of Canada is reduced to grayscale, but they don't do much for the landscape in October. Most of the rest are alder, cottonwood or chestnut. Chestnuts turn a not totally unattractive shade of rust before they fall, but alders and cottonwoods just turn brown. Paper bag brown. And our big maples, unlike their eastern cousins, show only a tracery of yellow amidst the predominantly russet shading.

There are a few bright spots - the little vine maples, although they rarely top 30', put on a brilliant display of crimson and orange, as do the sumac and a few other native shrubs, but they're a very small minority. Most of our colour comes from foreign imports, and so only appear in developed neighbourhoods. My rural commute is uniformly green and brown, with rare and rapidly disappearing splashes of more vivid hues.

I suspect it's because dear Gaia doesn't feel we deserve arboreal fireworks here on the coast - it's not like we're heading into 6 months of cold, glittering, unrelieved white. We don't need the autumnal pep talk, the little reminder than winter's not forever. Yes, it'll be dreary for a while - green trees, grey skies, straw-yellow fields - but my roses will be blooming for at least another month, the lawns stay green (and need mowing) year round, and the first wildflowers will be up in February.

Still, I miss all those colours.