The Fall in Italian Garden

How to Create Stunning Fall colours in Italian Gardens

Days become shorter, the breeze begins feeling fresher and the sunlight changes, prompting even we humans to begin sensing natures surrender to the changing season. The once, fresh, green leaves on the trees, slowly begin transforming themselves 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...?

autumn weather

As the suns 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 infa-red light and holds the key to the seasons, as plants are able to detect this infa-red light and 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 and begin absorbing these nutrients back into the trunk to be stored for the following seasons growth, as it would be highly illogical to just throw them 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 from the summer yet welcomes the winter with open arms, its natures time to display the fruits of its years hard-labor. Bright red berries and rose-hips suddenly ripen and appear, blackberries form and offer themselves tantalizingly to any passing bird, rodent or human that relies on the energy provided by these sweet berries to stock up on energy reserves for the cold winter ahead.

Natures 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. Trees like Maples, Aspens and Oaks begin displaying exactly what they're made of with an acute sense of pride, in this, the "autumn" of their season. 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 its 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 the leaves begin 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.

Here are some of my favorite plants that can also be used in Mediterranean gardens:

Arbutus Andrachnoides:

Arbutus Andrachnoides, or corbezzoli

The strawberry tree.

Quercus Rubra:

deciduous tree

Deciduous tree growing to around 10-15 meters

Liquidambar Stiraciflua:

another Deciduous tree

Deciduous tree growing to around 15-20 meters

Hydrangea Quercifolia:

Picture not available yet

Deciduous flowering shrub growing to around 2 meters

Parrotia Persica:

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Deciduous shrub growing to around 3 meters

Among the best 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, who rely on their berries for their survival, with a bounty, after all that's really all they're there for!

Sunrise in Tuscany
Above: Sunrise in Tuscany

By Jonathon Radford

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