As a child, I used to hate autumn. End of summer holidays, end of the cricket season, back to school, uncomfortable uniform, getting cold standing at bus stops.
But as a grown up I love it. I love how nature gradually morphs between the seasons and autumn brings its unique palette of colours, smells and intrigues.
When sunlight levels drop and leaves stop making food for trees, their green pigments break down, allowing yellow, orange and red pigments to have their moments of glory. Whilst you can see the effect of this in woods across Wales, a botanic garden like ours offers an extra exotic dimension of beauty.
We’ve got a wonderful collection of trees which can look wonderful in autumn so we’ve produced an autumnal tree trail to help you find them.
The pair of Japanese maples in the Wallace Garden, with their wine-red autumnal leaves set against the yellow rendered building and framed by the stone archway, are one of our ‘filmstar’ trees. We’ve also got some lovely acers in the Japanese Garden and along the upper Broadwalk, where you really shouldn’t miss the coppery orange peeling bark on the paper bark maple.
The coloured leaves of the Katsura trees on the upper Broadwalk also give off an intriguing autumnal smell that reminds me of candyfloss, but maybe that’s because I was brought up on the seaside.
Make sure you don’t miss the wingnuts, cherries and witch-hazels along our lakesides, and on good years, the bald cypress can look spectacular. As an added bonus, keep an eye open for the family of otters that have been seen regularly on our lakes in the past few weeks (although I keep missing them – doh!).
The avenue of Himalayan birch trees in the Double Walled Garden are maturing beautifully and their reddening leaves and bright white bark will provide an evocative background to the evening film show of Hocus Pocus here on Saturday 28th October.
The sculptured circle of hornbeams that dominate the centre of the Double Walled Garden turns a lovely coppery brown in autumn. The Garden’s mature woods, especially Pont Felin Gat and Fairy Woods, are notable for having a large number of hornbeams, an uncommon feature in Welsh woods. Lots of fungi have a symbiotic relationship with hornbeams and I love the thrill of looking for them.
There’s a chance your grandparents may never have seen the sumptuous coppery-pink autumnal leaves of dawn redwoods. This ancient tree, originating in the Mesozoic era, was considered to be extinct until it was rediscovered in China in the late 1940s. Our circle of dawn redwoods on the lower Broadwalk, give you an insight into what the dinosaurs would have seen. I wonder what, if anything, brontosaurus’ thought about autumn.
Here are the scientific names of the trees mentioned above.
Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ – Japanese Maple
Acer griseum – Paper Bark Maple
Cercidiphyllum japonicum – Katsura
Betula utilis – Himalayan Birch
Carpinus betulus – Hornbeam
Taxodium distichum – Bald Cypress Tree
Metasequoia glyptostroboides – Dawn Redwood