Turning over a new leaf

by James Alexander-Sinclair

What a glorious week it has been. With such clear skies and sunshine how could I resist writing about autumn leaves?

Autumn leavesWhat a glorious week it has been (with apologies to those in other places who have had torrential rain/snow/hailstones the size of gulls eggs/unseasonal drought etc).

Every morning at about 7:15 we walk around the fields - with such clear skies and sunshine how could I resist writing about leaves?

We are not really up to the New England standard (we are a bit short of red sugar maples) but there is still enough variation in leaf colour to excite. Aside from the general appearance of autumn - low sunshine, skies of Carribean blue and a fading grandeur to the woodlands, I have been looking at individual trees around the place.

We have a belt of trees that run up one side of our garden (around the septic tank if you're interested). They are basically bog standard native broadleaves planted about fifteen years ago as a shelter belt, but between them they have some great colour. One of the best is the field maple (Acer campestre) whose leaves are vivid yellow and beautifully shaped. Similar in colour but more translucent are the spade (as in cards) shaped leaves of the birch (Betula pendula). The Hawthorn have mostly lost all their leaves already but are still laden with haws and the Blackthorn are (as Pippa says) heavy with sloes. The latest to fall are the still turning English oaks and beech that (hopefully) will cling on a bit longer.

However, my two absolute favourites are the glorious Liquidambar which has the finest leaves of any tree (the variety Worplesdon is about the best). The other is a pear tree called Fondant d'Automne that, though rubbish at producing pears, has staggeringly gorgeous leaves. They begin with just a little creeping redness that gradually turns every leaf reddy chestnut - like highly polished oxblood coloured brogues.

Go out and look at leaves now (take a morning off work if you have to). This is such a brief moment and all it needs is a sharp frost or a shower of rain and they will be instantly transformed from hanging jewels to a rustle on the pavement.

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Talkback: Turning over a new leaf
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Gardeners' World Web User 07/11/2007 at 10:47

For Autumn colours, definitely go to Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey. It's a stunning vista of gold, red, orange and purple at the moment. Brilliant for photography on a sunny November afternoon.

Gardeners' World Web User 10/11/2007 at 14:21

Thanks James for enjoying Autumn leaves, it has been a splendid time and I didnt expect it this year, so a double treat for me in Sheffield. We have marvellous displays of colour in fields, on roads, in gardens and because of the way Sheffield is shaped we get wonderful views of the surrounding areas. It is my favourite time of the year.

Gardeners' World Web User 11/11/2007 at 18:19

Fantastic colour this year, the pond at Hillier Gardens in Hampshire was fantastic. I really want a scarlet leaf tree for Autumn for my garden. Anyone know what the reddest of red Acer variety is?

Gardeners' World Web User 15/11/2007 at 13:12

I am enjoying the articles and photos on your web site. Along with the Magazine it cheers me.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/11/2007 at 17:46

The reddest of red Acers is probably Acer palmatum Osakazuki - although it must get enough water (as must all Acers to stop them getting crispy edges to the leaves).

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