Autumn is coming to a close and we’re moving slowly into winter. But it has been a stunning season. We’ve had the usual junk weather that England likes to throw around, but we’ve also had crisp, mild days with diamond bright shards of sunshine, and clear, azure skies.
These low temperatures and bright sun have given us gorgeous autumn color; trees dripping with bronze, gold and ruby reds and that sweet, slightly melancholy, nostalgic scent of cold, of damp leaves and rich, wet earth. Breathing it in, we know the year is older, sadder, full of memories and ready to turn in for the night.
Autumn is characterized by it’s burning bright colors. It’s a result of the chlorophyll in the leaves being reduced in response to the shorter days, and the other chemicals such as anthocyanin (red) and carotene (orange), become more dominant.
Like these Japanese maple leaves above. Acer palmatum var.dissectum ‘Garnet’ (left) and Acer palmatum (right). Blood red stars, like holding a flame in your hand, they are rich with colour for a few more days, then will drift off on the breeze for another year.
At the base of the petiole of each leaf, the pectins start breaking down. Soon all that is securing the leaf to the stem is the xylem strands, and a strong wind is enough to tear these apart, leaving the leaf free to float away. The torn off xylem leaves bundle scars on the stem, and the tree is bare until the budding spring the next year.
Many plants really come into their own in the Autumn, and it a season with nearly as many decorative merits, horticulturally speaking, as spring and summer.
Robinia psudoacacia (left); a common street tree of vibrant, lime green leaves through the warmer months, as the weather turns, it’s branches are drooping with festoons of golden coins that are pure butter yellow and soft to touch.
Or Cotinus’Grace’ (above). It’s a deciduous shrub, with simple, obvate leaves that turn from deep plum to crimson as the year comes to a close. Throughout the spring it has an iridescent sheen on its leaves, and in the summer, the same cloud like plumes as the Cotinus coggryggia.
Autumn suits London particularly well, a final chance for it to gleam in the crisp sunlight before the real darkness begins.