By the time autumn begins to nip, my garden has been showing its early warning signs for months. The leaves of Euonymus planipes, a relative of our native spindle tree, begin to colour in early July, so by the time everything else catches up the whole shrub with its the jester’s hat fruits is spectacular. An Acer palmatum overhanging the pond colours early too, I love it for the grace of its shapely branches and layers of cascading leaves. Its universal popularity is due to reliable and amazing autumn colour so it’s an advantage that for it and its many cultivars, autumn seems to be a very long season.
With leaves glowing just as fiery red but nowhere near as well known, Amelanchier lamarckii is a brilliant little tree, unfussy where it lives as long as the ground is reasonably moist, it’s also smothered in tiny white flowers as the copper young leaves unfurl in spring, so very pretty at both ends of the year. Like Cerics 'Forest Pansy', Rhus typhina 'Laciniata' and Cornus mas, which I am thrilled were planted by a previous owner of my garden many years ago for me to enjoy now, both Amelanchier and Acer palmatum will never be enormous so great trees for small gardens. The Rhus does throw up suckers so not for the overly controlling gardener but they're easy to pull out so for me not a reason to avoid it.
I never mourn the passing of summer, autumn holds so much to give pleasure in the garden. Fruits and berries are displayed like juicy jewels along the branches of trees, shrubs and climbers, ready to tempt the birds in need of as many calories as they can find before the lean months of winter begin.
Most years bring redwings to my garden, they pass through on migration swooping down to the cherry plum in the hedge before a quick splash in the pond and away again. I live in hope of seeing waxwings one day and in readiness I’ve planted a small rowan tree, although it’s much more likely that thrushes and blackbirds will feast on its berries. Goldfinches are regular visitors to the teasels standing tall and sturdy among the swaying heads of the Panicum grasses, themselves food for other seed eaters. Even without the birds to liven things up, their dainty seeds partnered by the skeletal flowers of fennel are enchanting.
On those first dewy mornings of the season when the mist hangs along the Wye, the orb web spiders reveal themselves sitting patiently in the centre of their delicate webs, made visible by the condensing drops of moisture. The season is changing and there’s a chill fungal smell in the air, autumn has arrived and with it a whole new season to enjoy in my garden.