Peter Dowdall muses on the wonders of autumn’s hues and suggests some trees and climbers to plant for now.
THERE is no doubt the summer is over and it’s autumn time once more — the swallow are about to fly south for the winter and those of us who may have been hoping for a late ‘summer’ can no longer delude ourselves — autumn has arrived.
And with a deluge, too, last weekend —as is becoming all too common and as has been predicted by the scientists — we are seeing very heavy periods of rainfall and flooding, where a month’s average rainfall falls in one or two days.
I love the autumn as much as I enjoy the spring and like the springtime, when nature is reawakening from her slumber and we all feel fresh, enthusiastic and invigorated for the new growing season, in the autumn as Mother Nature prepares to settle down for her rest, so too do we feel like slowing down the pace and looking foward to a period of hibernation once more.
My birthday is in the middle of October — and as a result I always look forward to autumn. I no longer keep tabs on the number on the cake, (which is increasing far too quickly for my liking), but because of happy associations with my childhood.
I still vividly remember walking through paths of fallen leaves up to my knees and the sheer childish pleasure of kicking my way through them.
It’s a special season, the fall of the year — in the same way that all seasons are important and have a purpose.
It’s the time to reap what has been sown and look forward to the down time of the winter and then prepare once more.
We might think that during autumn there is less colour and beauty in the garden than earlier and while that may be true, it’s certainly not to say that there is no colour — for the sights of deciduous trees and shrubs clothed in their autumnal hues of reds, coppers, yellows and golds are a sight to behold.
And while the colour may be less obvious than the frothing beds, hanging baskets and patio planters of the summer, it is when you do stop and take the time to notice what is all around you — that you begin to notice the deep-hued elegance of autumn.
There are few sights as spectacular as a building covered with the fiery red of Parthenocissus quinquefolia or Virginia Creeper.
This is an easy plant to grow in most conditions — it’s great for taking the blandness off a wide expanse ofwall, but be careful with fascia and soffits as it can pull off weak boards and gutters.
A number of plants will be needed to cover a large area and it will need to be tied lightly until established. Virginia Creeper’s striking crimson colour makes it worth the trouble, however.
Roadsides all over the country will be ablaze with colour too, over the next month and each year when I find myself on the road between Cork and Mallow, I am lost in the beauty of the Fraxinus excelsior (Common Ash) and the Sorbus aucuparia (Mountain Ash).
Cork County Council or the National Roads Authority or whoever was responsible for this planting on the few miles up to Mallow, can take a bow for it is native, colourful roadside planting at its best.
The warm and nearly glowing yellow of the Ash contrasts so vividly and perfectly with the mahogany red of the Mountain Ash or Rowan trees.
Once again Mother Nature will determine how long we will get to enjoy this annual display as the leaves generate colour as they enter the period of senescence and prepare for leaf drop.
Each day, as the colour gets better, the attachment to the stem gets even more tenuous and a gust of wind will send it to the ground to become next year’s humus.
The countryside and your garden may be preparing for the winter, but that does not make the garden a less beautiful place, rather it makes it more interesting again, as it is in the garden that you really see that connection to the universe and the ever changing world that you won’t get inside an office block or shopping mall.
So take the time this weekend to get outside and admire the beauty that is all around, for free.
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