Garden Design News

Autumn colours at Mansard House in Suffolk

As a general rule, autumn-tinting plants need sunlight to perform really well; deep shade is hopeless for producing Autumn colour. If you can plant your tinting trees so that they are backlit by the sun, autumn colours can take on the brilliance of a stained-glass window.

Autumn colour is always a bit disappointing at Mansard House in Suffolk – with the exception of this year.

I think it’s a soil/climate thing. Firstly, our soil is a very silty sandy loam with a very high leaching rate – in other words, water can easily wash out any goodness in the soil. If you think about it, autumn leaf colour is partly dependent on pigments (i.e. orange carotenoids) persisting in the leaf once all the chlorophyll has vacated dormancy. I believe many of the pigments derive from the soil, having been taken up by the tree and deposited in the leaves for autumn disposal. If the soil is deficient in the first place, perhaps this is a reason. We are extremely manganese deficient, so much so, that the leaves of many trees and shrubs look quite sickly by July.

Secondly, despite Suffolk being the driest county in the UK, most of our land is essentially water meadow, so many of the tree roots are close to or within the soil water table. And trees on the surrounding higher ground definitely produce better autumn colour. But don’t ask me why.

One quickly learns to appreciate what little colour we do get, but this year has been more prolonged and better than usual. I wonder if the early cold snap caused the green chlorophyll to quickly vacate, therefore exposing what pigments managed to get deposited into the leaves exposed to their best?


Gardens to visit for Autumn Colour

Here are a few of my favourites

Autumn colours in Suffolk