Not so mellow yellow
And so autumn is upon us. Cool nights combined with dry and sunny days makes for exceptional autumn colours and this year we have had an absolute explosion of colours! The intenseness takes my breath away regardless of weather. During sunny days I run out to take pictures, and during the gray cloudy ones I walk through the forests hunting mushrooms and delighting in the scenery. It only lasts a short few weeks, this intensity, before the leaves drop to the ground and the branches become bare. Best enjoy it while it lasts, I say to myself, and spend as much time as possible bathing in natures glory.
Most of the trees I have planted in my woodland garden are chosen with autumn colours in mind. It is a tricky thing to balance all the different aspects of the seasons when choosing trees and shrubs. Spirea Japonica Odensala is a favourite shrub of mine, with a plethora of pink summer flowers, and then there are quite a few flowering cherries including American native bird cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), Sargents cherry (Prunus sargentii) and the Japanese cherry (Prunus Accolade) that have lovely spring flowers as well as bright autumn leaves. Still, there is one favourite small tree I have in my gardens that is only there for they joy it gives me in autumn - the Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) pictured in the first picture of this post. It not only has gorgeous autumn colours but also an ever so light but utterly delicious caramel smell in autumn when the leaves are falling.
Still, for all my plantings, in my gardens most of the autumn colour comes from native trees. Birches, oaks, apen (Populus tremula) and European bird cherry (Prunus padus) surrounds the gardens as they all like the light that reaches them when they need not compete with pines, as they would have to in the middle of the forests. Native trees are so important in gardens, as they have a natural compatibility with the soil and climate and often fare better than imported varieties. They not only provide structure and form without many of the problems non-natives have, but also they are tremendously important because they feed the local wildlife. Insects and birds are adapted to find nutrition from the native plants, and letting natives into your garden will provide a natural habitat that no imported plant will give. My European bird cherry for example feeds no less than 75 different species of insects that live off its leaves, flowers and buds, as well as an added 200 species that live off the trees' decaying wood and bark. Compared to that, my beautiful Katsura is a veritable desert feeding only a few insects with its fallen leaves on the ground. Makes you think, doesn't it...?
Meanwhile, the days are getting noticeably shorter and the shadows are getting longer by now. After autumn equinox the sun sits lower in the sky, and in the afternoon I really notice the movement of the shadows. The clouds move faster too, with a clear sky turning overcast in just an hour or so. A sunny morning will turn into a wet afternoon, and often a day will have both rain and sunshine in it. I like this variability in a way. It gently eases nature into the cold and dark season, and me too.