Autumn Spice

The problem with owning a garden dominated by evergreens and tropicals is that I don’t really get to experience autumn colour at home. My garden morphs quickly from fabulous full summer to winter green, pretty much when I get around making it happen. This year, during one of many moments of impulse, I purchased a columnar Liquidambar named ‘Slender Silhouette’. The tree was already a decent size and has been challenging to grow in a pot. All through summer, despite being potted on twice, my Liquidambar demanded a huge amount of watering effort, not a task I wish to repeat next year. Note to self: trees are meant to grow in the ground.

I was recommended an ericaceous (acidic) compost to enhance my Liquidambar’s autumn colouration but was rewarded only with a good, strong yellow for a couple of days before the leaves fell. Since I was at work, I witnessed both events in the dark.

I stashed my newer and younger gingers in the workshop last weekend, leaving larger tubs of H. ‘Sorung’ and H. ‘Stephen’ outside. Cold weather prompts the stems to sever themselves from the rhizomes that fuelled their growth through summer. When they are ready, and not before, they snap off neatly, emitting a crisp-yet-spicy fragrance.

I am away in Cornwall this weekend so I photographed my gingers earlier this week, just as they were starting to turn yellow. They’ve never looked this good before, but therein lies the benefit of growing any plant en masse. I have stopped watering my gingers now since they are naturally going into hibernation. Next weekend I shall pop the tops off and store the rhizome-packed pots at the back of the workshop, where they will be cool and dry until April.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. TFG.

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16 thoughts on “Autumn Spice

  1. I do agree Dan that at this time of the year the whole garden seems to diminish into itself in just a few days, fullness and height and colour just leaching away. Like you I have many many containers and almost no open soil so it’s not an option to have a box hedge or an avenue of pleached limes for structure! For someone like yourself who clearly loves vibrant colour it must be especially disheartening. This winter in an attempt to stave off horticultural gloom I am going to buy and learn about alpines and succulents as some of them have lovely colourful forms and great architectural shapes, They seem to be quite an art but worth a try until the bulbs start to come through and save the day! By the way I notice you are coming to Cornwall this weekend, have to tell you the weather is ghastly! I live in South Devon and the train home from work practically ended up in the sea at Dawlish😂

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    1. I went through that too Julia!! We were fortunate to get by. My train was two hours late arriving in Truro after someone had deliberately flooded the line by pumping water off their land onto the track!! Six and a half hours after leaving London I arrived and the storm had passed. Phew!

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  2. Liquidambars are so beautiful. They were my favourite for autumn colour when I lived in Sydney. They used to have such a range of colours with burgundy, amber and gold. I can imagine that they don’t like being contained, but maybe the colour will improve with age?

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  3. I am wondering how long I can keep my Ginko in a pot. The leaves were the most glorious butter yellow before they fell.
    Your advice about the gingers was very timely as Rusty Duck has recently given me one, thank you.
    Have a great weekend down in Cornwall, the forecast is improving.

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  4. I had to look up ‘Slender Silhouette’. That is RAD! It is like a smaller Lombardy poplar with color! (I mean more color than just bright yellow.) Our landscapes at work are dominated by huge redwoods, but they do happen to make the most excellent backdrop for sweetgums! We do not get to add many trees in such a densely forested environment, but when we do, we do happen to like those that show up nicely against the redwoods.

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    1. Sage advice! Where I lived in London we had four liquidambars at the bottom of our road. They all came into leaf and turned colour at different times. The colours were entirely different – one would always go red and almost black before dropping, and another yellowish green. The other two turned the classic range of autumn colours. Perhaps this means I am destined to get yellow from my tree every year then ….. Dan

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  5. Your garden still looks lovely, even without all the fullness of summer. And I envy you your “winter green” blahs — here, the only things that stay green in winter are conifers and boxwoods — and houseplants. Hope you enjoyed your weekend and find some time to spend in your gardens this week. Best, -Beth

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