It really feels as though Summer is bleeding into Autumn here at Chartwell recently. When The Kinks released ‘Autumn Almanac’ in 1967, they sang about dew-soaked hedges and “leaves of a musty-coloured yellow”. As those lyrics suggest, many people, myself among them, think that Autumn is one of the most romantic and poetic times of the year. The bitter, feet-numbing cold of Winter isn’t yet upon us and the crisp, sharp sunlight still warms our bones. It is a chance for reflecting on the year just passed but also time to look forward to the fresh hope of Spring.
Last week I was asked by Emily, our new Learning & Events Manager here at Chartwell to suggest a few plants in the gardens that would be looking their best throughout Autumn for a children’s trail she is putting together. We are blessed here with many, many plants that could fit this bill. From the unusual yellow berries of Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’ overhanging the pet graves to the multi-coloured foliage of our young Fothergilla gardenii shrubs in the Winter Border and much more, there was plenty for me to choose from. Look out for Emily’s booklet in the Visior Centre when you next come and visit us. The picture below shows the front cover…
Below you will see the six plants that I chose for Emily and details of where you can see them the next time you come and visit us in Churchill’s gardens.
These are just a few of the Autumn-friendly plants you can enjoy with us right now. OK, now for the science bit. While the mesmerising display of reds, yellows and oranges at the time of the year is truely a sight to behold, there is a reason why the trees and shrubs perform like this. As Summer ends and Autumn begins, the days start to get shorter. This is how the trees ‘know’ to begin getting ready for Winter. During winter, there is generally not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The plants will rest and live off the food they stored during the Summer. They begin to shut down their food-making processes. One of these shut-downs is that the green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As it fades away, we begin to see the red, yellow and orange colors produced by the carotenoid and anthocynin pigments. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along but we just couldn’t see them in the Summer because they were covered up by the green chlorophyll pigment.
If you have found any of this interesting and you are relatively new to our garden blog here at Chartwell, you might like to have goosey gander at some other posts I’ve done about some of our other Autumn favourites. A post about Nerine bowdenii can be viewed here. Another about Stewartia pseudocamellia can be seen here. And for a study of Taxodium distichum, click here.