Coming Home

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