Garden Advice

Autumn Colour

If you are seeking something colourful  then all you need to do at this time of year is take a look at the wonderful cinnamon, ruby and golden syrup colours of some of the deciduous trees around us.

The change in leaf colour is a result of the breakdown of chlorophyll which is the green pigment essential to photosynthesis, the process by which green plants manufacture their own food.

Leaf fall also has a technical explanation. During the growing season leaves produce the plant hormone auxin. In autumn auxin production declines and permits the gas ethylene to weaken the cell walls in the leaf stalk that joins the leaf to the twig. Eventually this causes the leaf to fall.

Probably the most stunning example of autumn colour is to be found in the tree Liquidamber. It gives fantastic autumn colour for a long period but it is on the large side so should not be attempted in a small garden. More suitable are the Japanese Maples. Acer palmatum and Acer rubrum sport crimson leaves in autumn. Other Acers turn gold or yellow.  The thing that the Acers and Liquidamber have in common is lime intolerance. To grow them successfully check that your soil is on the acidic side or, in the case of Acers, which are too good to be deprived of on account of their dietary requirements grow a smaller variety in a pot in ericaceous compost.

For a climber with unsurpassed autumn colour look no further than the Japanese or Boston Ivy. This carries something of a health warning due to its vigour (up to 70 feet) but is a gift for covering an awkward spot and has the added benefit of tolerating north and eastern aspects.

Euonymous alatus has fiery red leaves at this time of year as does the dogwood Cornus kousa.

If it is berries you are after then Cotoneaster and Pyracanthus will oblige. Becoming increasingly popular is Skimmia rubella. This holds red flower buds throughout the winter which open to little white flowers in the spring. It also has the advantage of being evergreen with attractive glossy dark green leaves.

So I am not so sure that this is “a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” as Keats would have us believe but rather a riot of colour defying the inevitable onset of winter.

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