The Fall in Italian Garden
Days become shorter, the breeze begins feeling fresher and the sunlight changes, prompting even us humans to begin sensing nature surrendering to the changing season. The once fresh, green leaves on the trees, slowly begin turning into an array of butter yellows, reds, coppers and a whole host of colors that symbolize the arrival of the Fall. But what creates these colors: do they just suddenly decide to change all at once by chance, or is there a rational and natural reason for this transformation?
Of course there has to be a natural reason for all this, but how many of us know what that reason is?
Some words about the Fall
As the sun's angle changes in respect to our planet, towards the end of Summer, its rays need to pass through more of our atmosphere – and thus more of the particles that make up that atmosphere – creating a rosier glow. This "rosy glow" is actually composed of infra-red light, and holds the key to the seasons, as plants are able to detect it. By doing so, they can determine the time of year by using it as a guide.
When the correct time has been established, and air temperatures call a halt to any possible extra growth, then the trees begin extracting any remaining goodness from the leaves to take it back into their trunk, where it is stored for the following year's growth: in the end, it would be highly illogical to just throw all those nutrients away, wouldn't it? With the greens and other colors of Summer now absorbed, all that remains to be seen on the leaf are the colors of the leaf structure itself- the tannins, sometimes red, sometimes yellow and so on.
The Fall is the season that bows respectfully to the Summer, yet welcomes the Winter with open arms. Bright red berries and rosehips suddenly ripen and appear, blackberries form and offer themselves tantalizingly to any passing bird, rodent or human relying on the energy provided by these sweet treats of nature to stock up on energy for the cold Winter ahead.
How to make your garden fantastic during the Fall
Nature's bounty can be and, for respect alone, should be displayed in our garden designs, and there are many plants that can help us garden-lovers make it through the melancholy of a Summer that's slowly slipping away to Winter. This time of the year, trees like maples, aspens and oaks begin displaying exactly what they're made of with an acute sense of pride. The changing sunlight seems to accommodate and extenuate these colors to their maximum. Is it any wonder then that this season is considered the most moving and romantic time of the year, when it's also moving and romantic for nature itself?
Underneath the trees there are plants that have learnt to capitalize on the extra light that begins to arrive on them as leaves starts to fall: plants like cyclamen (cyclamen coum), autumn flowering crocus speciosus and even autumn flowering iris (iris unguicularis), a dwarf species that starts flowering in November and resists for the whole Winter, are only some of them.
Here are some of my favorite plants that can also be used in a Mediterranean-style gardens:
Arbutus Andrachnoides (strawberry tree)
The strawberry tree.
Quercus Rubra (red oak)
The red oak, a beautiful decidous tree, which grown up to 10-15 metres in height.
Liquidambar Styraciflua (sweetgum)
Another deciduous tree, the sweetgum also grows pretty high, reaching 15-20 metres and is very common in the South East of the US.
Hydrangea Quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea)
The hydrangea is a beautiful deciduous flowering shrub that grows to around 2 meters.
Parrotia Persica (Persian ironwood)
The Persian ironwood, a deciduous tree growing to around 3 meters.
If you have a penchant for berries, some of the berry producing plants can be found among the Viburnum, Mahonia, Pyracantha and Berberis species, however even wild roses, blackberries and elder can create interest and can provide those animals relying on their berries for survival with a bounty: after all that's really all they're there for!
By Jonathon Radford
Edited and updated by Francesca Bezzone