Color Me August

Among gardeners, August color is often a problem. The spring flowers peak near the solstice in June, and the intermittent rain and heat of summer are hard on the remaining plants and flowers. Nature avoids this problem by coloring August with shades of green. Lots of them.
On this particular August day, the midsummer sun had just a little haze to soften its rays. A walk in the woods became an exploration of the continuum of color – all in shades of green.
The tree tops were bathed in golden sunlight – after 12:00 noon, not even a stray cumulus cloud shadowed them. The sunlight illuminated the entire forest canopy coloring the leaves a literally translucent yellow-green.
Below the canopy, another array of leaves was ready to capture the light that made it past the tree tops. These leaves flicker constantly with full sunlight or shade from the leaves above, and steep in the half-light of the glowing canopy.
In the understory – between the canopy and forest floor – the flickering light from above is less, and the surrounding shade deeper. These leaves are the color I would suggest to Crayola as ‘forest green,’ although today I realize one crayon can’t color an August forest.
By the time the filtered sunlight makes its way to the forest floor, the seedlings and shrubs are nearly fully shaded. They will need to wait for the slanting rays of evening for a chance to share the sunlight. The fully shaded leaves appear dark, dark green – a color seemingly unrelated to the glowing canopy.
Nature’s palette is not bereft of other colors in August. She appears fond of earth-tones. The forest floor where no seedlings grow mirrors the green above with a spectrum of brown: pale brown leaves from last year, on their way to soil, but taking their time at it; rich, dark brown of the moist leaves in contact with the soil; shades from gray-brown to dark brown on the trunks of the various trees. In the mid-summer shade of the forest, the browns take a back seat to the remarkable greens.
Beyond the edge of the forest, where the old field deals little with shade, nature has expanded her palette. In addition to a thousand shades of green, she has added a dash of white Queen Anne’s Lace, splattered her grassy canvas with the purple of Spotted Knapp Weed, and can’t quite rinse her brush of green enough to let the Goldenrod open to its full yellow splendor. By the look of the many buds, she is saving plenty of yellow for the coming weeks.
From any distance at all, this sunny August day is a thousand shades of green beneath a hazy blue sky. Today, it is the color of August.

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