The Scent of Fall

The house is filled with the scent of burbling beef stew (my personal favorite is Ina Garten’s Beef Bourguignon) and roasting squash.   Outside, the day is crisp and cold and our breath hangs in the air for just a minute before wisping away.  The freshness of the morning gives way to the musk of rotting leaves and moist soil.  I work, pulling out those vegetables that provided us with a bountiful summer.  I mourn the passing of one season, but am looking forward to another that contains some of my favorite fruits and vegetables… anything pumpkin, sauteed kale, sweet, succulent pears, bitter brussels sprouts and of course roasted squash.

Fall is full of smelly delights!  One of my favorites is found surrounding the Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum).  From far away, the pyramidal tree glows with an apricot hue.  Up close, the perky, heart-shaped, yellow leaves stand like little soldiers along the branch.  But my favorite thing about the tree occurs when a slight wind ruffles those glowing, perky leaves.  Taking a deep breath I am reminded of my brothers soft, decadent caramels, or the raucous cacophony of a ballgame and the cotton candy that comes with it.  The smell conjurs up memories of fun times shared with friends and family.  Pick a handful of dry leaves from the Katsura tree, crush them in your hand and take a deep breath.   The scent coming off the leaves will be reminiscent of cotton candy or caramel and perhaps a sweet memory of your own will be reawakened.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum – Katsura Tree

A deciduous tree that will grow 25-40’ in height and a 20-30’ spread.  The tree’s form is lovely with its pyramidal shape and horizontally layered branching structure.  In my neighborhood, the tree is a common street tree (which significantly adds to the pleasure of my neighborhood walks!).  It prefers full sun, but part shade is ok, and it prefers regular water, but dry is ok too.  The Katsura tree is an attractive background shade tree during the summer months.  But it is during the fall when this tree truly shines!