Sarah's Snippets

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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Time to plant

October is a great month for
doing things in the garden, and I don’t just mean tidying up after the summer.
I think it is the best month to plant and a really good time of year to take a
look at your lawn.

October is a fantastic month
for planting anything hardy. Plants will put down roots in the soil which is
moist and still warm. This root growth will set them up to perform really well
when the growing season starts in the spring. So get planting trees, shrubs,
roses, climbers, fruit bushes and cottage garden plants and, of course, masses
of spring flowering bulbs. Plant bulbs in clumps for the best effect and
remember they are so much less expensive to buy as bulbs now rather than as
plants in pots in the spring. 

The lawn will probably still
need a couple more cuts. Increase the height of the mower blades for the last
few cuts of the year. Sweep up fallen leaves and scarify by giving the lawn a
good rake to remove dead material which will encourage the grass to thicken by
developing runners and side shoots. Aerate compacted areas using a garden fork
or hollow tine fork. Apply an autumn lawn feed to promote root development and
strengthen the grass to withstand the rigours of winter. If  your lawn is
looking particularly worn and needs patching, or you want to create a new lawn,
then October is definitely the best month to lay new turf.

I
hope you have the opportunity to enjoy autumn in the garden. 

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