April is the month when the season really begins to become a little unpredictable. Some days can still be quite warm and others cool, night temperatures begin to dip into the single figures and the first signs of frost start to appear in the cooler regions.
The change of season brings a change of pace to the garden which is a welcome relief for plants as well as gardeners. Autumn is a season that provides time for reflection, contemplation, and planning for the spring ahead, but nothing is more satisfying than enjoying the rich display of colours that cloak the autumn landscape.
Deciduous tress are starting to turn with their autumn tones providing a tapestry that is punctuated with splashes of pastels in the understory from shrubs and perennials that relish in the mild autumn conditions.
There are literally hundreds of shrubs and perennials in flower now that all add to the magic of autumn. A trip to your local botanic garden or nursery will reveal many of these gems.
The colour on autumn foliage trees is the result of chemical changes in the leaf brought on by climatic factors of lower temperatures a reduction in day length and constriction of the cells in the leaf stem that reduce water movement to the leaves.
This decreases the leaves' ability to photosynthesise, which reduces the production of chlorophyll, the chemical that gives leaves their characteristic green colouration. As the chlorophyll levels decrease, other pigments of leaf colour are gradually revealed.
The chemicals responsible for this are carotenes which produce the yellows and anthocyanins that yield reds and oranges. These pigments are water soluble which is why autumn foliage colour is only temporary. These pigments are lost as the leaf dries out before falling.
Autumn is a fantastic time to be in the garden as the cooler temperatures not only make it more enjoyable to tackle those tasks that will give your garden a head start on spring, but colours, textures and tastes abound to enjoy.
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Spring flowering bulbs can also be planted this month with the first arrivals now showing up in nurseries and garden centres. The golden rule for bulbs is 'buy early, plant late.' So make the most of autumn and plant some colour this weekend to see autumn out in a blaze of glory.
- John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher and loves a green space.