Enjoying fall leaves and news from an upcoming gardening conference
THE SIZE of the amenity trees is a testament to the antiquity of a supermarket on the site of the historic Newport Cattle Market.
The line of Fraxinus angustifolia, the narrowleaf ash, is over 40 years old and for most of that time provided a pleasant, attractive but unpretentious edging to the busy road.
But in this autumn period, this tree takes on its full meaning and shines with a thousand lights. For brief weeks, the trees glisten delightfully with reds turning into gorgeous yellows and golds.
F. angustifolia is a large, spreading, fast-growing deciduous tree that, next to Morrison’s, will reach a zenith of 80 feet high, if it grows unchecked.
Take a closer look at its beauty all year round and you will see a gray bark that is thin and deeply cracked with age.
In spring, lanceolate, dark green, shiny leaflets emerge from the brown winter buds. Insignificant greenish flowers are followed by winged fruits in autumn.
The narrow-leaved ash is native to central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia. Across the UK it is planted as an ornamental amenity tree and is often found in parks and green spaces.
It is an ideal street tree or for poor parts of the garden, as the roots tolerate drier soil conditions and are able to handle compacted soil.
Its only flaw is that the branches are brittle, so good care and maintenance is required.
Just around the corner of the ash trees there was another beautiful show of fall color, Virginia creeper vines clinging to the row of roadside trees as you approach Asda.
The vines are undoubtedly escapes from a garden, probably of the abandoned pruning. Virginia creeper has been one of my longtime favorites, but it doesn’t have universal popularity.
When I was a young boy I loved the bright colors of fall and still have the scrapbook made from bright yellow x-ray film paper with still shiny vermilion leaves taken at Ryde’s Puckpool Park where the creeper climbs still the ramparts.
It is a vigorous climber native to North America and needs the web of a large garden to be seen at its best.
To ensure fiery red foliage in the fall, it is best grown in light, dappled shade. The plants are hook and loop fastener but need help getting started and can be easily pruned in winter.
This plant is listed in the UK as an invasive non-native species and while this does not prevent its sale or cultivation, the RHS encourages those who grow it to take care to dispose of pruning to stop unwanted spread.
It is propagated by layering or by cuttings of deciduous trees and dresses historic buildings particularly well. Thanks to its anchoring feet, it quickly climbs on the walls of the house and greens and colors without support.
But before you decorate your home with this creeper, you should check the walls for cracks. Shoots could enter and cause damage and doors and windows will also need to be pruned as they will try to enter.
The current thinking is that far from being home to damaging moisture, Virginia creeper protects walls from ultraviolet rays, rain, air pollution, and temperature ups and downs.
The Isle of Wight group of the Hardy Plant Society is hosting a talk by Julian Sutton called Adventures with Fancy Foliage. Julian is a longtime planter, botanist and nurseryman, who together with his wife run the desirable plant nursery in Totnes, Devon.
They specialize in rare, unusual and quirky herbaceous perennials sold by mail order – and he will bring a selection of plants for sale at the event.
The conference will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 17, at Newport Parish Rooms.
RICHARD’S BEST TIPS
- Use the last dry weather to paint sheds and fences with preservatives before winter arrives.
- Give evergreen hedges a final cut before bad weather sets in. Remember to cut only the green shoots of leylandii or you will leave brown spots that will never recover.
- Reuse spent compost from annual container displays as mulch on flower beds and garden borders.
- Build a cold frame to protect the young plants from extreme winter conditions.
- Keep an eye out for potted evergreens. Tall varieties may require staking in exposed, windy gardens.
- Now plant raspberry and bare root currant seedlings for a delicious local grow.
- Tidy up your strawberry plants by trimming dead leaves and removing runners.
- Prune apple and pear trees any time through February.
- Do not prune your plum trees now as they will be susceptible to silver leaf fungi – wait until midsummer.
ARE YOU AN ISLE OF WIGHT GARDENER WITH A QUERY FOR RICHARD? You can email him at [email protected]