Gardening Magazine

Storms & Leaves

By Notcuttsuk @notcuttsuk

Storms & leavesThe autumn weather is always changeable and already summer seems a long way behind us! The soil is now very wet, making any digging on the allotment impossible – I fear that it will be like previous years and I will be playing ‘catch up’ in the spring which will test my back!

After the strong winds from storm Christian (or St Jude as the press named it), Mrs McGregor and I opened the bedroom curtains with trepidation to find the garden fence in one piece and more importantly, plenty of leaves still on the plants that we are relying on to give us a show of autumn color. I had placed the metal furniture in the sundeck to prevent it blowing over and hitting the patio doors or smashing down on planted containers, but there was, thankfully, little damage to the garden or allotments.

I have always wished for a large piece of ground that I can plant as an arboretum to show off trees at their best. Although tree planting is a long term project, many will reach a good size after only a few years and enhance the landscape for many more. There are plenty that can be planted for a dramatic show of autumn leaf colour, often with an added feature of bark interest through the winter or flowers in spring – some trees will give you all three!

One such is the Sheraton Cherry (Prunus serrula) which has yellow leaves in autumn. When they fall, the peeling older bark reveals a deep mahogany red new coat beneath. Clusters of white flowers are the third feature in spring, contrasting with the deep green of the new leaves. Many Japanese Cherries have good autumn colours and of course, stunning shows of cherry blossom in spring as the new leaves emerge. Lots are small enough to grow in most gardens given good soil that does not dry out.

One of my favorite trees for this time of the year is Liquidamber which describes it perfectly in the autumn. This medium sized tree has upright growth and colours best in acid soil. The Maple like leaves are deep green and glossy through the growing season, turning amber, red and orange before they fall to reveal corky bark through the winter months. Growing well in retentive but well drained soil, it is often planted near lakes in large gardens, where the fiery reflection can be admired.

For lighter, more sandy soil, many Birch color dramatically to bright golden yellow or coppery orange. Even the humble Betula pendula (Lady of the Woods or Silver Birch) has good autumn tints before the leaves fall to reveal an elegant silhouette and dainty dark twigs through winter. The Himalayan Birch (B. utilis) is famed for its greyish white bark and has many selected forms including ‘Grayswood Ghost’ and jacquemontii (Silver Shadow) with dazzling white trunks and deep golden autumn leaves.

There are many trees that I would plant in my arboretum – we have several in our overcrowded garden – but for now, I will have to be content with visits to parks and open gardens to admire them there.

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