Autumn Colour A Magical Annual Display

Posted by Peter Dowdall on

One of Nature's Gretest Annual Displays

We tend to forget about autumn colour as a feature of our gardens and we really shouldnt.

I love the autumn as much as I enjoy the spring and like the springtime when nature is reawakening from her slumber and we all feel fresh, enthusiastic and invigorated for the new growing season, full of hope and optimism and promise so too in the autumn as she prepares to settle down for her rest so too do we feel like slowing down the pace and perhaps looking at hibernation as an option once more. The tones of autumn colour really reflect our own feelings at this time of year.

Like everyone when I look back on the birthdays of my childhood and youth I have happy memories and even now I start to smile when thinking of the Birthday parties we used to have at home growing up.

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting one of my best buddies from when my age was counted in single digits. We were great friends then and around about when we were ten his family, like so any others during the eighties took to the USA where he still lives, now married with his own single digit kids.

Through the wonders of social media we struck up contact recently and met up after over thirty years and took off as if we had met last week, except the last time we met of course it was at a school desk and not a high stool. Emmett was one who was always at the Birthday party.

My Birthday is in the middle of autumn during October and as a result I always look forward to October. I no longer keep tabs on the number on the cake which is increasing far too quickly for my liking but because of these happy associations with my childhood, I still vividly remember walking through paths of fallen leaves up to my knees and the sheer pleasure of kicking my way through them.

It’s a special season, the Fall of the year in the same way that all seasons are important and have a purpose. It’s the time to reap what has been sown and look forward to the down time of the winter and then prepare once more.

We might think that during the autumn that there is less colour and beauty in the garden than earlier, during the spring and summer and while that may be true, it’s certainly not to say that there is no colour for the sights of deciduous trees and shrubs clothed in their autumnal hues of reds, coppers, yellows and golds are a sight to behold and while the autumn colour maybe less obvious than the hanging baskets and patio planters of the summer, it is when you do stop and take the time to notice what is all around you that you must certainly think ‘how did I not see this’.

There are few sights as spectacular as a building covered with the fiery red of Parthenocissus quinquefolia or Virginia Creeper. Roadsides all over the country will be ablaze with colour over the next month and each year when I find myself as I invariably do on the road between Cork and Mallow I lose myself in the autumn colour beauty of the Fraxinus excelsior (Common Ash) and the Sorbus aucuparia (Mountain Ash). Cork County Council or the National Roads Authority or whoever was responsible for this planting on the few miles up to Mallow can take a bow for it is native, colourful roadside planting at its best. The warm and nearly glowing yellow of the Ash contrasts so vividly and perfectly with the mahogany red or the Mountain Ash or Rowan trees.

Once again Mother Nature will determine how long we will get to enjoy this annual display as the leaves generate this colour as they enter the period of senescence and prepare for leaf drop. Each day as the colour gets better the attachment to the stem gets even more tenuous just waiting for that gust of wind to send it to the ground to become next years humus. The countryside and your garden maybe preparing for the winter but that does not make the garden a less beautiful place rather it makes it more interesting again as it is in the garden that you really see that connection to the universe and the ever changing world, you won’t get that inside an office block or call centre or shopping mall, so take the time this weekend to get outside and admire the beauty that is all around and for free.

 

Starting a New Garden?

If you’re starting the garden from scratch then remember that a garden full of deciduous trees and shrubs will give lots of autumn colour but will be totally bear for the winter and similarly a garden full of evergreen specimens will give plenty of winter greenery but none of the fantastic seasonal displays. It is best to use a mixture of the two for best effect. Look at creating a focal point to an area of your garden by using a good plant combination. Acer palmatum Dissectum Viridis is a stunning and delicate looking Japanese Maple and if you plant one that has been grafted on a stem of 1 – 2 metres in height and underplant with some Japanese Azaleas you will truly have the best of all seasons as the Acer will give stunning autumn colour and the Azaleas will provide evergreen interest before they give of their best with a fabulous display of spring flowers.

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