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Autumn3.jpgI’m sorry.  November is flying by on russet wings and still I have posted no photos of autumn color!  i meant to write about beautiful autumn foliage, but, with one thing or another, I never managed to get out of New York. So…the only thing to do was to head out to my garden in Brooklyn and take some leaf pictures at home.

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Autumn gardens have their own chaotic beauty of fallen leaves, brown spots, and jagged red vines.  Plus it has been warm this year so there are still plenty of flowers.

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However the queen of the garden, as always, is the ornamental Kwanzan cherry tree, which is nearly as beautiful covered in glowing yellow leaves as it is in summer wearing bright grass green…or even in spring when it is a lambent pink cloud.  I love that tree!

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Allegory of Autumn (Workshop of Boticelli, ca. late 15th century, oil on canvas)

Allegory of Autumn (Workshop of Boticelli, ca. late 15th century, oil on canvas)

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, September 23rd is the Autumnal Equinox in 2015. Summer is officially over and autumn has begun. Now summer is my favorite season, and, more than ever before, it vanished like a racer snake diving into a thicket. I will miss it…and I worry that future summers will seem even shorter (if possible). But whatever the case concerning the swift passage of summer, autumn is not without its own substantial and fulsome delights. To celebrate the incipient season of harvest and abundance…and of winnowing and ending…I am putting up a gallery of fall crowns. Most of these are wreaths made of berries, chrysanthemums, and falling leaves, but a few are made of copper, bronze, and semi-precious stones.

A Bride Wearing an Autumn Crown (Photo by Nikki Cooper Via Love My Dress)

A Bride Wearing an Autumn Crown (Photo by Nikki Cooper Via Love My Dress)

Amber Autumn Fairy Circlet Tiara Crown (by Thyme2dream on Etsy)

Amber Autumn Fairy Circlet Tiara Crown (by Thyme2dream on Etsy)

Crown for the Autumn Queen by

Crown for the Autumn Queen by “Up from the Ashes”

Man's Wreath of Rose Hips, Berries, & Leaves (by BloomStudio of Etsy)

Man’s Wreath of Rose Hips, Berries, & Leaves (by BloomStudio of Etsy)

Autumn Leaves Crown (by hanatsukuri of Deviantart)

Autumn Leaves Crown (by hanatsukuri of Deviantart)

I feel like this prop crown from "A Game of Thrones" should count

I feel like this prop crown from “A Game of Thrones” should count

Fall Wedding Crown by "thehoneycomb" on Etsy

Fall Wedding Crown by “thehoneycomb” on Etsy

Autumn oak-leaf fairy crown and third-eye jewellery made (and sold) by

Autumn oak-leaf fairy crown and third-eye jewellery made (and sold) by “Atlantic Fae”

Golden Santos Doll Crown with Amber Rhinestones

Golden Santos Doll Crown with Amber Rhinestones

I am surprised at how many autumn wedding pieces there are! It gives one hope! And additionally I am gratified by the number of beautiful wreathes and handmade pieces available on Etsy…which also gives one hope. Maybe society is not wholly the mass-produced over-marketed aesthetic fiasco it seems like in the New York Times. Enjoy autumn! It is a beautiful season and there are many amazing things both fair and dark to come here on Ferrebeekeeper (and probably in the world too).

Sunflower and Wild Wheat Crown...again by "BloomDesignStudio on Etsy...gosh, those guys are the best!

Sunflower and Wild Wheat Crown…again by “BloomDesignStudio on Etsy…gosh, those guys are the best!

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Right now autumn colors are just hitting their brilliant peak in Brooklyn. Today, while I was running an errand, I saw a tree which had turned a perfect combination of bright orange, rich pink, and crimson. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the lovely tree (since I didn’t have my camera phone on me) but the color of its leaves was sublime. I ran home to look at the big list of color names to find this exquisite otherworldly hue—which seemed like it came from some paradise or celestial realm—and I was appalled when I discovered the name was “outrageous orange.”

Outrageous Orange

Outrageous Orange

The mystery to why the name was so jejune was promptly solved when I looked over at the source of the name: “outrageous orange” was a name conceived by Crayola in 1972. Crayola crayons are magnificent products, but they are marketed to children. The silly alliteration and facile name are thus explained. In fact, the color was renamed “ultra orange” in 1990 (which hardly seems like an improvement).

I feel like I remember this crayon from my own 70's childhood

I feel like I remember this crayon from my own 70’s childhood

Whatever the name, the color is exquisite, and perfectly evokes sunsets, autumn leaves, and slowly cooling magma. We need more words for beautiful bright orange tones other than “orange” but I’m not sure I am going to go around talking about “outrageous orange.”

Welwitschia mirabilis in Namib Naukluft Park

Welwitschia mirabilis in Namib Naukluft Park

The Namib Desert is probably the oldest desert on Earth.  Because of the quirks of plate tectonics and geology, it has been the same hot arid landscape since West Gondwanaland shifted to its present position along the Tropic of Capricorn nearly 130 million years ago!  Some of the regional plants and animals of the Namib Desert have had a very long time to adapt to the baking sun and shifting sands of West Africa’s Skeleton Coast.  The sandswimming (and misnamed) golden mole is a prime example of the strange animals which live in the Namib, but an even weirder organism is the ancient monotypic plant Welwitschia mirabilis.  As the sole member of its own genus, family, and order, the plant is a bizarre evolutionary loner.  This suits the strange plant well–since some specimens exist in stupendous isolation, far from all other plants in the midst of great desolate plains.  There, single plants can live for up to two millennia or longer, in environs which would swiftly kill most other living things.  Their distinctive appearance—a huge convoluted heap of withered ancient leaves of immense length—is a sort of trademark of the Namib Desert.

The coat of arms of Namibia features one at the bottom

The coat of arms of Namibia features one at the bottom

But Welwitschia mirabilis is even stranger than its bizarre appearance and lifestyle first indicate.  It is one of the last three surviving gnetales—a division of the ancient gymnosperms (which also include conifers, cycads, and ginkgos).  Botanists are still arguing about the exact taxonomy of the gnetales, but they seem to have evolved in the Jurassic era.  As the dinosaurs came and went, as the seas rose and fell and great ice sheets carved the world and then melted, welwitschia has sat in its inhospitable corner of the globe and quietly prospered (even as all of its close relatives died away).

A young Welwitschia

A young Welwitschia

Each welwitschia has only two strap-like leaves which grow continuously over its long life.  As the desert winds rip into the plant, these leaves become shredded into different ribbons and segments, but they remain the same two leaves—growing longer and longer like some tangled Rapunzel.  The all-important taproot of the plants is just as strange—a huge shallow water collecting disk which has approximately the same radius as the length of the leaves.  Each plant has its own gender and they are pollinated by flies and desert Hemiptera (true bugs).

Welwitschia mirabilis with a dangerous African animal species

Welwitschia mirabilis with a dangerous African animal species

Oddly enough, in our world of mass extinction, welwitschia plants are doing fine.  Although collectors have gathered some, there are still plenty left in places where people do not want to go. The plants in tumultuous Angola are better protected than those in democratic, ecologically-minded Namibia (simply because Angola’s many wars have left vast, unmapped zones of landmines where people never venture).  The welwitschia’s hermit-like asceticism is a very good strategy in our hedonistic Anthropocene world.

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Italian plums

Italian plums

Some colors are more subtle than others.  In fact some colors are so subtle that they are wholly ancillary to others.  Fine artists are attuned to all manner of delicate films, coatings, glazes, and washes which are added to a deeper color in order to produce a sense of depth or the illusion of texture. Subtle color-words—those which describe a texture, a mood, or a translucent quality are deeply appreciated.  Today’s color describes a secondary color which was known deep into classical antiquity and earlier.  The word glaucous derives from the Latin “glaucus” which in turn derives from the Greek “glaukos” (all of which mean the same thing)–a waxy, shiny gray/green/blue neutral color such as the blush found on fresh grapes.  If you have ever eaten fresh grapes or plums you will be familiar with this color as the delicate coating on purple plums and grapes (and if you have not eaten fresh grapes and plums, who are you? Live better!).

Grapes

Grapes

Certain plants also have a glaucous coatings—such as cacti and other succulents.  Ornithologists, ever in a bind to come up with Latin and Greek words to describe the numerous species of bird have also taken to the word.  Birds which have waxy neutral gray-blue feathers often have “glaucus” in their binomial names (just as yellowish birds are often known as fulvous).  The glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) of the Pacific Northwest is a fine example.  The birds’ grey wings look as though they were glazed on by a gifted confectioner.

Glaucous Winged Gull (gull (Larus glaucescens)

Glaucous Winged Gull (gull (Larus glaucescens)

I like the word because I like plums, cacti, and birds (obviously in different ways) but I also appreciate the concept of a pale color which is always delicately brushed across something else.  With a poke of the finger or a good washing in the kitchen sink, the color glaucous would vanish.

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