Honey and mustard autumn foliage


Come autumn the flowers may be fading away, eclipsed by shorter and cooler days, but there’s still plenty of foliage whether on the ground, or held aloft against a sinking sun. Touches of lipstick-red, sombre-burgundy, orange-peel and mustard-seed glow in autumn sunshine, before the leaves fall and scatter on the ground - almost too lovely to pick up. The heart-shaped leaves of the Katsura tree Cercidiphyllum japonicum emerge a rich-claret, but are very prone to frost damage, so a sheltered position away from frost pockets is ideal. By the beginning of September the leaves of mature trees exude a burnt-toffee aroma, before the foliage turns to shades of honey and butterscotch. It is a large tree so it isn't for a small garden

Japanese acers, named forms of Acer palmatum, also suffer from frost damage in spring, unless sited carefully. However they are slow-growing so make excellent container plants grown in rugged frost-proof pots. 'Sango-kaku' offers something for every season, with pink-red shoots and branches in winter, pink-green maple-like leaves in spring and mustard-yellow leaves in autumn. Others are more finely divided and 'Inaba-shidare' has finely-cut burgundy leaves in autumn. Acers are expensive due to their slow growth habit, but this is one tree that should be bought when it’s a few years old so that it’s developed form and shape. Although hardy, be prepared to fleece at the leafing-up stage.