There are so many colors when you look at the many changing leaves that are falling around us. I tend to find one color I love and then another and then another — only to realize that I pretty much love all of the colors of fall.

Granted in the spring I am happy to see the leaves begin to unfurl onto their branches that the thought of them losing their leaves would seem heartbreaking. But they change to such beautiful hues that I couldn't ever live somewhere that doesn't experience the show that Mother Nature puts on in the fall.

As a child I was always curious to the how's and why's of life. So it only made sense that I had to know just why the leaves do change color in the fall. Leaves have many chemical compounds that make them up, including chlorophyll which is responsible for the green coloring in leaves. However, they also are made up of xanthophyll and carotene that are responsible for yellow and orange pigments in the leaves. Chlorophyll being the most abundant, however, overpowers the other shades for the majority of the growing season and keeps the leaves green.

In the fall trees begin getting ready for winter and its shorter days by not encouraging as much growth to their leaves. When the chlorophyll begins to break down the other colors finally are able to make their way through. The oranges and yellows are beautiful on their own but when you start seeing the red develop it brings things to an entire new level. Anthocyanin is responsible for creating the red colors in leaves and can also add purplish tints to plants and trees in the fall.

Most of these trees that are changing colors will lose their leaves in the fall. However, many of your oaks will actually retain their leaves until the spring when their new leaves begin to form.

Evergreens such as spruces, cedars, pines and so on will remain green all year. Thank goodness, because who out there wants a brown Christmas tree? They lose their leaves or needles too, but each needle stays on roughly two to four years. And they don't all fall down at once — although the pines at my mom's house when I was growing up would cover the ground when they shed their needles. There were still always plenty more green ones on the tree still for you not to notice that any had fallen once you raked them up.

How long the colors will stay on the leaves, and how soon they will change color, all have a lot to do with the weather. An early frost will lessen the red colors while rainy and overcast days tend to make for the years with the best fall colors.

Now is a good time to go out and look at the colors in your own yard whether it be your trees, shrubs or even perennials changing colors to see if you are missing any colors that you would like to be seeing. Then go to the store and find what you need and get out there and fill that void. It is fall after all. You'll have all winter to recover.

Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at

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