The last of the leaves

It’s an overcast Scottish November day and yet, looking out of my office window, I am amazed at the intensity of the colours in the garden.  The last of the leaves are still clinging to the branches in shades of tawny brown, rusty red and butter yellow, complemented by wide-ranging colours of the woody skeletons of trees and shrubs. This is the garden’s last swan song before it is overcome by the winter, and it truly is  a sight for sore eyes!


From left to right: tawny Fagus sylvatica (beech) leaves; architectural branches and golden leaves of Corylus avellana ‘Aurea’ (hazel); deep mahogany trunk of Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry); rusty orange leaves and deep brown trunk of Acer griseum (paperbark maple). The long grass has been cut down to allow the late winter bulbs to shine out and encourage me out into the garden in the new year.


In the front garden the dazzling white bark of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (Himalayan birch) is the star of the show, with the last leaves of Cotinus coggyria ‘Golden Spirit’ to the left.  Red and yellow stems of Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ and Cornus stolonifera ‘Flamivera’ (coloured stemmed dogwoods) provide the backdrop and an optimistic new flower spike on Echinops ritro (globe flower) reflects the mild conditions this autumn.

And still there are flowers! Schizostylis coccinea (kaffir lily) survived the arctic conditions of the last 2 winters and has been in full flower since mid October, and elsewhere in the garden Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ is still in full bloom. I am a total rose convert and now include shrub and climbing roses in almost all my client gardens. By choosing carefully, it is possible to have roses in flower right through the summer to early winter. That takes some beating!

The other stars of my autumn garden that are not shown here include all the ornamental grasses, the berrying plants such as cotoneaster, elder and ornamental crab apple, and the jewel-like flowers of Cyclamen hederifolium, and of course, the evergreen structure plants which are reappearing once more as the perennials are cut back for the winter. The dynamics of the garden are very different in the winter months – the full summer borders are pared back to reveal the skeletal framework of supporting shrubs and a feeling of openness pervades. Perfect for viewing the carpet of spring bulbs that begins at the end of January, when the cycle of the garden begins again.

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