With the colder weather creeping in we are enjoying crisp autumnal mornings and sunny days at the moment. This is the ideal opportunity to explore the autumn colour which is coming on a pace in the Gardens.
Exbury has an outstanding tree collection and this is shown off to full effect in the autumn season.
We have over 600 Acers and they are putting on a fine show of autumn colour at the moment. With a wide variety of different cultivars coming into full colour sequentially there is plenty more to come in the following weeks. Particularly look out for some of the Japanese maples with their spectacular autumnal hues.
Also look out for the fabulous Persian Ironwood trees, ( Parrotia persica), with their beautifully coloured leaves.
These impressive specimens are native to Northern Iran where they make a stately tree on the banks of the Black Sea. They do particularly well in the light, free draining sandy soil of the New Forest and we have many of them in the Gardens.
The Nyssa collection is also beginning to show some of its spectacular colour, visit the Jubilee pond area for a good selection of our young National Collection which we are looking to expand over the coming years.
The Sweet Gum (Liquidambar) cultivars are another prolific tree in the Gardens, you can recognise them from their leaves shaped like a five-pointed star and their small green, spiky fruits. These are often confused with acers but discerning gardeners will of course already know that they have alternate leaves as opposed to acers which have opposite leaves.
Did you know that not all conifers are evergreen there is a small group that are deciduous, of which we have a fine collection here at Exbury such as the Swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum). These popular ornamental trees were introduced into Britain in 1640 by John Tradescant the famous plant hunter. They are native to the Everglades and can grow to an impressive 30m in this country. You will recognise them from their feathery needles which turn a deep orangey red colour in the autumn.
Another deciduous conifer is the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). This endangered tree was once thought to be extinct and known only from the fossil record. It was 'discovered' in 1946 in China and since then seeds have been distributed to arboreta worldwide. The tree is fast growing and forms a pyramidal shape with bright coppery autumn foliage. We have several specimens dotted around the Gardens and a lovely cultivar 'Gold Rush' at Top Pond.
Glyptostrobus pensilis is very closely related to Taxodium. It has soft sea-green narrow leaves that turn a rich brown in autumn before falling.
If you are wandering along Azalea Drive you may well notice a strong smell of burnt sugar! This is emanating from the Cercidiphyllum japonicum or 'Katsura Tree'. It certainly is an intoxicating autumn scent but apparently not everyone can smell it!
Exbury is already well known for its fine autumn colour but did you know we have a wide range of fungi that pop up everwhere? Look out for them on the lawns and in amongst the bushes. Also there are several varieties that specialise at growing on trees such as the spectacular cauliflower fungus and the beefsteak fungus.
Late summer and early autumn is also the best time to take semi-ripe cuttings of woody shrubs and perennials. They can be kept in a cold frame or greenhouse over winter. In the spring check for root growth and pot the young plants on. This is a great, and cheap, way to rejuvenate your own borders by replacing old overgrown plants with fresh new ones.
We are currently displaying our fabulous collection of
Nerine sarniensis from now until the 6th November, well worth a look!