Last weekend, as we were driving along the A14 to a university open day, it was quite startling to see how many trees are already colouring up for autumn in spite of the indian summer we have been having of late. The nights have been cool, but I didn’t think that they had been nearly cold enough to cause the really bright tones we were seeing. Well, maybe that is just Kettering for you!
The autumn leaf colours are looking fantastic, so I am linking with Gillian at Country Garden UK who hosts a weekly ‘Looking Good’ meme. You will find a selection of eye-catching plants, colours and wildlife chosen by other bloggers featured there.
In fact, our recent sunny, dry weather is helping the ruby tints to appear. In summer the green of chlorophyll dominates leaf colour, but with autumn’s lower levels of sunlight, less chlorophyll is produced and other pigments get a chance to shine, particularly carotene (a yellow pigment). Then, as trees prepare to shed their leaves for winter, a layer of cells forms across the base of the leaf stalk and this limits the movement of sugars back into the body of the tree. The concentrated sugars in the leaves react with proteins in the cell sap to produce anthocyanin (a purple/red pigment). Importantly, the amount of anthocyanin produced is increased by sunlight, drought and temperatures staying above freezing. So we have ideal conditions now.
Certain species of tree all over the place seem to be putting on dramatic airs (even if the night-time temperatures aren’t terribly cold) as they decide that it is time to shut down for this year.
Trees and shrubs are currently turning stunning colours in the UK include: Sycamores, flowering cherries, Persian Ironwood and Virginia Creeper.
I am addicted to collecting and arranging the fallen leaves in different patterns.
I’d dearly love to be able to keep them this bright and colourful forever. I’ve tried pressing, drying and preserving in the past, but my favourite experiment so far is :- papier-mâché.
It turns out to be possible to make thin translucent bowls from torn white tissue paper and diluted pva glue. You build up two or three layers of paper on a greased (or cling-filmed) mold, then paste some beautiful leaves into the next layer, followed by a couple more layers of tissue. An irregular edge adds to the appearance I think. When the whole thing dries, you can remove the mold and you have a delicate, ethereal bowl which shows off the red and golden leaves to great effect for many years.
Here is one that I made three or four years ago, catching the late afternoon sunlight and you can see that the acer leaves are still going strong. The bowls work effectively with tea-lights too.
Do you have a favourite way to immortalize autumn’s colours?