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Autumn hues

Autumn hues   Acer palmatum There is something special about the woodland garden in autumn. I love the still misty mornings, the beaded water droplets on silky spider’s webs OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand territorial Robins making their chirpy presence known from every covert. In the herbaceous borders late flowering Dahlias, golden Rudbeckia, scarlet Salvias and massed fluffy seed heads of miscanthus grasses all provide late interest in the garden. Purple Asters and fiery orange Red hot pokers, kniphofia rooperi in particular show intense late colour.October 2007 021  Autumn leaf colour is starting to show in October, but here in Abbotsbury we don’t get the full impact of colour as gardens do further north in the country as we have a mild maritime climate. Our woodland eventually catches up once the temperature do drop, usually in December when the Gingko trees turn to an intense golden yellow. The intensity and range of autumn color is greatly influenced by the weather. Low temperatures and bright sunshine also destroys the chlorophyll that makes leaves green, and it enhances anthocyanin production. Kniphofia rooperiThese are the pigments that create the colours. Dry weather increases the buildup of sugar concentration in the sap. So the brightest autumn colors are produced when dry, sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights. One of the trees that usually causes a lot of interest this time of year is Cercidyphyllum japonicum the “Katsura tree”. A native to China and Japan, the leaves grow in opposite heart shaped pairs that turn into a variety of colours as the change in temperature triggers the breakdown of sugars in the leaf as with all trees. Acer japonicaThe main extra interest is that the Katsura tree leaves create a sweet caramel aroma that wafts around the garden which could be described as smelling like burnt candyflos. Japanese Maples have always been a great head turner in the autumn, and with our flood lit evenings the vibrant colours should be enhanced with the up-lighters and coloured filters. These evenings run from 15th October to 2nd November this year. A familiar form of the Japanese maple or Laceleaf is the dissectum. It occurs with red or green foilage and they make particularly showy accent plants. Let’s hope for a good show this year before the autumn gales take away the fading leaves for another year!


I have been the Horticultural manager/Curator for Abbotsbury SubTropical Gardens since taking over after massive storm damage back in 1990. The gardens trustees wanted a fresh new 10 year development plan to revive this historic yet overgrown and neglected garden, to improve the plant content, infrastructure, interpretation and tourism aspects - Prior to Abbotsbury I have been designing and restoring landscapes and gardens in diverse places such as Saudi Arabia, South of France, Sark C.I, Cotswolds and the New Forest.
I also lead garden tours world wide, write articles and the odd book.
Professional bodies - I am a member of the RHS woody plant committee, M.I Hort, International Camellia Society.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I read with anger the article in the Times about your plant losses and an idea came to me. Could you plant valuable plants through some kind of decay able screen that stretches out around the plant just below the surface making it difficult or even impossible to dig up the plant without having to dig a far larger circle. For instance if you used a largish gauge of wire mesh to allow plants to develop while the wire mesh would gradually rust away over a period of years allowing the plant to develop and not needing removing. It might require some adjustment with tin snips to accommodate the roots initially but would make the thief’s job more difficult, even impossible, and also more obvious so deterring them. I hope that you manage to deter or catch them. Regards & Best of Luck, Barry Webb.

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