Every leaf a flower
There is no season such delight can bring, as summer, autumn, winter and the spring. - William Browne, Variety, 1630
We all feel a sense of sadness as the days shorten and we start to lose our favourite plants to death and dormancy in the autumn garden. For me though, the sense of loss is accompanied by excitement and optimism at the change in seasons. Every season has something different to offer and personally I would find a world without seasons pretty dull.
In the autumn garden it is leaves and fruits that take over from flowers as stars of the show. If your garden is starting to look a bit drab, now is the time to start thinking about planting for colour next autumn. Japanese Acers are known for colour but need acid soil to perform at their best. Fortunately there are plenty of good alternatives for a small garden, including:-
Amelanchier lamarckii (Snowy Mespilus) A shrub or small tree, offering interest in each season, from star-shaped, white flowers in early spring, berries in June, to bronze leaves maturing to dark green and then orange and red in autumn. Height and spread: 10m x 12m in 20 years.
Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ (Dwarf winged spindle/burning bush) A slow-growing shrub from China and Japan, fairly inconspicuous in summer, suddenly becoming a highlight in autumn when the foliage catches fire with brilliant crimson tints. These are most vivid in full sun, although it grows reasonably well in shade. Makes a good informal hedge. Particularly good in alkaline soil. Height and spread: 1m x 3m
Prunus sargentii ‘Rancho’ (Sargent Cherry) A compact variety with abundant, single, pink flowers in March and April. One of the first to take on autumn tints of orange and crimson. Needs free-draining soil. Height and spread: 7m x 2m in 25 years.
Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ (Ornamental pear) An upright tree producing sprays of pure white flowers in April and May, followed by spherical brown fruit. The glossy, dark green leaves turn shades of purple and scarlet in autumn and stay on until winter, making it useful for screening. Happy in alkaline soil. Height and spread: 8m x 3m in 25 years.
Once the leaves start to fall, remember you can easily make leaf mould by composting them. Leaf mould makes one of the best soil improvers and you can’t buy it at the garden centre, so well worth a bit of effort to make your own. For more information : https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=478 , https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/maintain-the-garden/how-to-make-leaf-mould/
“Come said the wind to the leaves one day, Come o're the meadows and we will play. Put on your dresses scarlet and gold, For summer is gone and the days grow cold." A children's song of the 1880s