Autumn goes out in a blaze of glory

Posted: Monday 28 October 2013
by Adam Pasco

Autumn always fills me with mixed emotions, bringing the end of one gardening year together with plans and preparations for the New Year ahead.

Autumn always fills me with mixed emotions, bringing the end of one gardening year together with plans and preparations for the New Year ahead. So let's just enjoy the moment ...

To me, the colours this autumn appear even better than usual in the East Midlands where I live. And so far they've lasted well, probably because warmer wet weather has kept the cold away, allowing the green chlorophyll in leaves to break down more slowly into a palette of burning shades.

When the sun does occasionally break through, its piercing brightness transforms everything it touches. Colours come alive, and never more so than in the foliage on trees and shrubs as green gives way to gold, bronze, orange and an ever-changing tapestry of blazing glory.

Last week my favourites were foliage on my Japanese snowball bush, Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii', and on a recently planted tree called Stewartia pseudocamellia. Both have taken centre stage as their leaves turn almost daily into different glorious shades. This is what autumn is all about, and why it's so important to select a few plants for your garden that will produce a spectacular late show.

Even though their flowers are fading, I love the way hydrangeas die so gracefully through autumn. I'll leave these old flower heads in place until spring to provide plants with extra protection from cold, cutting back in March to fat green buds bursting through lower down on each stem.

Stems of variegated dogwoods still carry plenty of foliage, but as these fall their bright wands will continue to provide winter interest. And as soon as leaves do fall, I'll snip off a few stems to use as hardwood cuttings. This propagation technique is really easy, and a great way to raise a few new shrubs, fruit bushes or trees to fill gaps or give to friends.
As autumn storms do their best to break leaves free, many are still hanging on for dear life, so hopefully their glorious displays will last a little longer.

Which plants have given you the best colour this autumn?

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Talkback: Autumn goes out in a blaze of glory
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happymarion 30/10/2013 at 09:53

My acer seedlings from the Botanic Garden which I weeded are all different colouring - salmon pink, rich toffee, crimson. pale pink and a very dark plum one - none of which are evident in the mother plants. A golden spiraea is ablaze. Lovely colours on the leaves of all my hydrangeas. Persicaria leaves too. We were lucky in the storm and escaped the wind but the heavy rain has spoilt the lovely rhus typhina in the garden across the road. None of the late varieties of apples were blown down so can look forward to the "Charles Ross" getting brilliant red for Xmas.

oldchippy 30/10/2013 at 18:56

On Sunday my acre in the front of the house was orange/red come Monday morning there was just a pile of brown leaves under neath,all blown off the bush,well we had it for two days any way. That's life.

higgy50 31/10/2013 at 18:38

I have to say that so far down here in North Somerset the leaves have been taking some time to turn and my garden borders are still a ablaze with autumn colour from Asters, Rudbekias and a few other later flowering plants.

If had to choose a favourite Autumn tree I would have to choose the Oak! I know that's a surprise and I'm picking it for it's Autumn bounty of acorns loved by so much wildlife!

OK I know Acers have fantastic foliage but your not going to see a Green Woodpecker on it are you!! :-)