Take time out to enjoy nature’s ‘fireworks’

Trees are catching the eye with their dazzling autumn displays.
Trees are catching the eye with their dazzling autumn displays.
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As autumn deepens there is still much to do in the garden.

Top of my list includes rescuing tender perennials before frost appears, a diversity of pruning, and preparing borders and beds for a new growing season. The lawns need attention and we’re working our way through the greenhouse.

But there’s also a memo to take time out and enjoy nature’s firework display. No whizzes and bangs, but oodles of colour that repeats annually, free of charge. It’s the autumn change in deciduous trees and shrubs as they prepare to jettison leaves ahead of winter dormancy.

This process is a wonder of nature – the way changing temperature and light conditions trigger a chemical reaction within plant cells, leading to the reabsorption of food elements.

As the green chlorophyll recedes, other pigments it had previously masked appear. Finally, an abscission layer forms at a point where the leaf blade joins a stem, and the ground becomes covered in something akin to a Persian carpet.

Where better to view this process than in our local gardens, parks and countryside?

It began for me a few weeks ago with a change in the appearance of Cercidiphyllum japonicum (burnt sugar tree) from green to smoky-pink, and continued with the crimson-bronze of Cornus koussa. We’ve recently been enjoying the transformation of gleditsia trees, and now they’re all joining in.

Very few deciduous specimens refuse to cooperate in this chameleon-like process, even the hawthorn hedge tries, bless it, and we all have our favourites.

Friend Ted is particularly fond of acers (maples), especially the dwarf Japanese type. The lady of the house and I have bookmarks fashioned by him. He collects sound leaves during the change and laminates them onto a card base. They represent a thoughtful gift.

There is one further advantage to nature’s fireworks display – the end product is much more useful than a spent rocket or Roman candle case.

Collect the leaves for composting and they’ll add to garden fertility. Either add a layer to an existing composting facility or bag them in a black bin liner, secure the top and pierce a few air holes. Granted, the process of decomposition takes time, but if it can be left out of sight, you’ll feel better for having preserved a rich organic source.

What do enthusiastic gardeners get up to when the weather closes in, daylight hours decrease and another series of Gardeners’ World comes to an end?

The flower, vegetable and fruit shows, along with the camaraderie, has also long gone, and hibernation isn’t an option because a gardener’s work is never done. If you’re not doing, you are thinking and planning.

Why not join a local gardening club, where speakers are found, ideas abound and the craic is quite good too?