Coming Home

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There’s nothing like a long spell away from home to remind you of what you take for granted …. and sometimes what you might do differently with your life. I have missed a good strong cup of tea (a cliche, but so true), the cramped comfort of our little country, clean air (even London air is better than anything you can breath in China), freedom of information (the BBC is off-air whilst the protests in Hong Kong continue) and most of all rain. I have not felt a drop of the wet stuff in three weeks: Autumn in Northern China is clear and dry compared to England and consequently everything there looks dry, faded and wan. Not so in London where I’ve returned to a reassuringly damp, grey, soggy day. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Fiery colours as sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) begins to turn
Wonderful contrasts as sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) begins to turn

I have missed most of October, but happily not the brilliant colours of autumn. Wanting to feel the cool rain on my face I ventured out this afternoon, passing a row of four sweet gums (Liquidambar styraciflua) at the bottom of Highgate Hill. Two trees must be fifteen years old and two about ten years younger, but each one is coloured completely differently, varying between green-edged-magenta and deepest burgundy. Sweet gum has to be one of my favourite trees, and as soon as I get a garden big enough I’ll be planting a forest of them.

Sweet gums are a match for maples and acers when it comes to intense colour
Sweet gums are a match for maples and acers when it comes to range and intensity of colour

A young gingko (Gingko biloba) teetered on the edge of autumn, its fan-shaped leaves poised to turn clear, butter-yellow any day now. This is a common tree in Chinese cities and it would be good to see it planted more often in London. Gingko has a lovely, upright crown in youth which is ideal for street planting.

Gingko biloba is considered tolerant of both drought and pollution, the makings of a great urban tree
Gingko biloba is considered tolerant of both drought and pollution; the makings of a great urban tree

And it’s not all over yet for the flowers, with precious little roses and more exotic passion flowers (Passiflora caerulaea) preparing for their swan song. The mild weather has sustained them, and may well continue to do so for a little while yet.

It's not over yet for these miniature floribunda roses
There will be more to come from this miniature floribunda rose
Is there any tropical flower quite as alluring as the passion flower?
Is there any tropical flower quite as alluring as the passion flower?

And what might I do differently? Well, I have long been resolved to find more ways to explore my passion for plants, photography and writing and have a few more ideas how I might do that as time goes on. A book perhaps, a photography course and certainly further development of this blog, which has offered me such a great outlet for the last two and a half years. Watch this space……

The pavements on Highgate Hill are piled high with the leaves of Platanus × hispanica, the London plane
The pavements of Highgate Hill are piled high with the leaves of Platanus × hispanica, the London plane

Categories: Foliage, Musings, Trees and Shrubs

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

Greetings Garden Lover! Welcome to my blog. Plants are my passion and this is my way of sharing that joyful emotion with the world. You'll find over 1000 posts here featuring everything from abutilons to zinnias. If you've enjoyed what you've read, please leave a comment and consider subscribing using the yellow 'Follow' button in the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen. You will receive an email every time I post something new.

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11 comments On "Coming Home"

  1. You struck lucky with your wish for rain Dan, its been a balmy almost 20c here until today, not very English at all. Looking forward to future developments!

  2. Ohhh I so agree – there is no place like home and a decent cup of English Breakfast tea with PROPER milk… and vegemite on toast. I got back yesterday too and the first thing I did was make a good strong cup of proper Tea!

    So I came home to lush lime green leaves on the Acers, rich green new leaves on the hellebores, Delbard roses in full bloom (of which I immediately picked a big bunch and put inside) and fresh air.

    I await eagerly to hear an update on your new direction…… see you soon


  3. Liquidamber is my favourite too. Don’t tell anyone, especially not the tree police, but I have one in a pot until I have a garden big enough to plant out. Please reserve a signed copy of your book for me x

  4. Sometimes a period away from home makes one appreciate our own home and garden however imperfect. Here on the edge of the world autumn without trees has its own special character and makes me appreciate glimpses of lovely trees on the big island.
    Lovely to see liquidamber and ginko getting some well deserved praise.

    1. Yes, being away brings the triumphs and imperfections into sharp focus, but I am especially pleased to be back by the sea, breathing clean air again.

      I can’t imagine life without trees, they are such a presence in our lives, but at least yours are just a stretch of water away 🙂

  5. Lovely fall colors! The Ginkgo is my all time favorite tree. Next to ficus religiosis. One word of caution though. Always get the male! The seeds/fruit of the female smell awful and will make a huge stinky mess on your sidewalk and any unfortunate cars parked below. It is the oldest tree species, which makes it so special. We wouldn’t even have it if it weren’t for a small group of Chinese monks who cared for them for generations as the native population went extinct. Fascinating story and why it’s one of my favorites. Cheers!

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