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Royal Scottish Forestry Society

The Magic of Autumn

Living in Dumfriesshire on the hills above Drumlanrig Castle, some six hundred feet above sea-level, our stunning views to the South West include coniferous plantations, mixed woods and some mature forestry, planted  by generations of Dukes of Buccleuch. Throughout the autumn months, these woods have remained resplendent over the years as the leaves of the ash, beech, birch, chestnut, oaks, sycamores and wild cherries offer a kaleidoscope of colour ranging from tones of red, purple, brown, yellow and gold. This is a superb contrast when highlighted against the dark black green of Scots Pine and Sitka Spruce. To complement this dramatic backdrop, our own garden has been planted specifically with varieties of ornamental trees that also focus on autumn colour.

LIQUIDAMBAR STYRACIFLUAOver and above a varied selection of Acer, Fagus and Sorbus, seven varieties have been particularly impressive this year. Amongst the medium sized trees has been the Crataegus crus galli (Cockspur Thorn), its leaves changing from green to yellow and then maturing in bronze. As I write this article in mid November, the Liquidambar styraciflua (The North American Sweet Gum) still retains all its leaves which are turning deep crimson and purple at the same time. Prunus sargentii, to me, is one of the loveliest cherries and has this October produced a brilliant showing of dark red leaves against its trunk of chestnut brown.

Fraxinus Raywood (Claret Ash) with its plum- purple coloured leaves has looked particularly majestic and I hope it will be spared from ash dieback (Chalara Fraxinea). Of the larger varieties, Gingko biloba (The Maiden Hair Tree) has produced its particular fan shaped leaves turning to bright yellow in mid October. In contrast, Quercus coccinea (Scarlet Oak) with its deeply lobed leaves, coloured gloss green on top with bristle tipping teeth, has this week become brilliant scarlet. Lastly, the colour of our Taxodium distichum (Swamp Cypress) has changed from bright green feathery foliage to one of copper and bronze.

Whilst these varieties mentioned can be singled out this season, it appears the very wet summer, the lack of early frosts or usual high winds has played a part in intensifying their autumn beauty.  There has been no need for enthusiasts to visit Westonbirt or fly to Vermont. It has all happened here in Dumfriesshire.

George Norrie

November 2012