Autumn is many people's favourite season. Whilst spring is great at heralding new growth and change in its tight buds and zesty greens, autumn can be the most vividly vibrant yet unassuming season of them all.
Maidenhair tree (Gingko biloba)
This Chinese tree existed 350 million years ago, making it one of our oldest trees. It gained its name ‘Maidenhair’ due to its leaves being similar to those found on the maidenhair fern.
Whilst it may not provide the longest autumnal show, when the leaves do turn, their fiery golden colour is hard to miss.
Gingko extract taken from their leaves has shown in studies to be able to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow around the body. The female tree will also produce fruits that also having medicinal properties, despite their less pleasant smell. These trees can often be found in cities as they are resistant to pollution as well as pests and diseases.
Sweet Gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua)
The Liquidambar is named as such because of the sweet gum or resin the tree produces from its bark.
Its palmate (hand-like) leaves in autumn are stunning and well worth paying attention to when outdoors in parks and gardens. The tree also has the advantage of having varieties that can grow to a modest size which make them reasonable choices for your own garden. They also produce flowers in summer that draw in bees and other pollinators.
Persian Ironwood tree (Parrotia persica)
The main point of autumn interest in the Parrotia persica is that its leaves change colour much in the same way as traffic lights do. Starting with green, they then turn yellow and red, crimson and deep purple. On some leaves you can observe these distinct colours all at the same time. It can also show small clustered red flowers at the beginning of spring.
It gained its name ‘ironwood tree’ due to the fact that its wood is incredibly dense. Rumour has it that it was used in machinery production during the industrial revolution.
Chinese Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus henryana)
Not all the plants in the list are trees and here we look at a climber that could add some autumn colour climbing a pergola in your own garden. Native to China, this deciduous creeper gives a delightfully resonant show of reds and purples. It also produces complimentary dark blue berries during September and October.
Growing to a height of 9 meters, it is less vigorous than other creepers so may well be a plant that adorns the back wall of your garden displaying soft green leaves with silvery white veins outside of autumn.
Beauty berry (Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii - ‘Profusion’)
Following on from the stunning berries seen on the Parthenocissus, it makes sense to also look at the Callicarpa bodinieri or the 'beauty berry' to give it its common name. These dynamically purple berries appear towards the end of autumn and remain on the stems when the leaves have fallen, drawing more focus to their vibrant colour.
Best planted in groups to ensure pollination occurs, these shrubs grow to around 3 metres tall and are therefore suitable for a border or can be placed in planters.
Historically, they were used for medicinal purposes by native Americans using them to alleviate symptoms of rheumatism and colic. Farmers apparently would also rub themselves as well as their horses with the leaves as they would ward off mosquitos.
So, as the nights begin to draw in and frosty evenings become an approaching reality, make time to go outside and enjoy what autumn has to offer. Whether it's in the myriad of spiderwebs on display or the finer structures noticeable on spent seed heads, nature still has an abundance of spectacles to appreciate at this time of year.