Autumnal colour changes all down to chemical reactions

An example of the dramatic colours that autumn brings with it.
An example of the dramatic colours that autumn brings with it.

One autumn memory that will never fade is of a young gardener carrying large pots of late-flowering chrysanthemum plants into the moderately warm greenhouse as November arrived.

They’d been rooted from stem cuttings taken from saved stools way back in January. Potted on in stages, staked with canes, watered, fed and disbudded, they’d spent the whole summer outdoors, and once under cover, they bristled with potential, and, oh, the fragrance of those leaves!

Long may chrysanthemum-growing continue.

Budburst in springtime brings so many shades of green, and those same trees and shrubs shed them with such dignity in autumn.

The spectacular colour change is all down to a chemical reaction triggered by changes in temperature and day length.

As they both reduce, the process of breaking down chlorophyll begins. This, in turn, reveals underlying colour pigments, and we are treated to nature’s fireworks display.

Most deciduous trees and shrubs, even herbaceous perennials, contribute to the spectacle, but some do so far more than others.

These are the specimens we long for in our gardens, and we all have favourites.

This is the ideal time of year to see what appeals most and decide whether you have the space to cope with it in maturity.

I’m all for getting on with it in late October while there’s warmth in the soil to encourage new roots in advance of winter.