Autumn colour: ups and downs

Autumn colour in carpet of fallen forest leaves.

Autumn colour can be uplifting. Good for the soul, perhaps?

Yes, we know that it’s essentially a by-product of deciduous trees closing down for winter, but it’s still beautiful, isn’t it? So I make no apology for filling this blog with gorgeous images of autumn colour. Though there are downsides to some of it (for me, at least). Read on to find out more…

Autumn Colour at Westonbirt Arboretum (one of the UPs)

autumn colour at Westonbirt

autumn colour at Westonbirt © Joanna Maitland

I had intended to go leaf-peeping at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire back in October. The tree collection there is fabulous and the maples, in particular, provide wonderful autumn colour.


autumn colour at Westonbirt

autumn colour at Westonbirt © Joanna Maitland

Unfortunately, this year, Westonbirt decided to require autumn visitors to book and pay seven days in advance. At the time, the weather forecast was highly uncertain, with lots of rain and high winds. It’s quite a long drive from where I live and I really didn’t fancy trudging around the arboretum in that sort of weather.

autumn colour at Westonbirt

autumn colour at Westonbirt © Joanna Maitland

So, guess what?
I didn’t book and we didn’t go.
And that way, I’d say, everyone lost out.
Definitely one of the DOWNs.

Perhaps next year, Westonbirt will rethink its policy and simply allow visitors to turn up and pay on the day?

After all, it’s a huge place with plenty of room for visitors.

(I took the pictures shown here on a previous visit to admire the autumn colour.)

Another Westonbirt UP (in my opinion)

Bonnie Helen Hawkins is a painter and graphic artist (and a member of my local group of the Society of Authors so I am a fan). She has made a name for herself as the artist of Westonbirt, though her work also includes seascapes and wildlife. She currently has an exhibition of her paintings—called Transformation—at the Maven Gallery in Bath. This is one of her oil paintings of Westonbirt. I think it’s stunning. Definitely an Autumn UP.

into the light at twilight by Bonnie Helen Hawkins

“Into the light at twilight” Oil painting by Bonnie Helen Hawkins

Autumn Colour round the World (UPs for all!)

People appreciate the autumn colour round the world. Leaf-peeping is a tourist attraction in New England, for example. The particular combination of trees and soil seems to make for unbelievable displays, like this one.autumn colour in New England

And this is an image from Altai, in Siberia. I think those trees must be larches, but please correct me if I’m wrong there. The snow-covered mountains in the distance add drama, too.autumn colour in Altai, Siberia

Autumn atmosphere, mist and low sun

One of the other Autumnal UPs is atmosphere. The images above from New England and Siberia are very bright, but often there’s autumnal mist which adds wonderful atmosphere.
I particularly like this image of red maples at a Shinto shrine in Japan.
It’s both beautiful and serene, don’t you think?autumnal colour with maples at Japanese shrineCan you feel yourself relaxing as you look at this gorgeous image? I certainly can.

And we get a similar feeling from the images with low sun and long shadows.
A sort of restfulness, you might say.golden autumn colour in woods with low sun long shadows

Unfortunately, low sun also has its drawbacks. When I used to live in Hampshire, I went to extra-mural history classes at Reading University in autumn and winter. The drive home, in the late afternoon, was difficult because the road ran due south and on the west side of it there was a long row of trees, planted at regular intervals. The low sun, shining through those trees, created a strobe effect that was tough on the eyes and possibly dangerous.driving into low sun on wet road with glare

And low sun, though beautiful, can also be a problem for drivers, especially when the road is wet and there’s a lot of glare.

So autumn’s low sun and shadows often give us an UP but occasionally also a DOWN.

Ginkgo can definitely be a DOWN

The other night, a TV gardening programme was singing the praises of the ginkgo tree. The presenters especially liked its autumn colour, a pure butter yellow. However, the tree they were showing was quite small. The ginkgo is fairly slow-growing, but it can live to a great age and can get very tall (25 metres or so).

Here is a gorgeous avenue of mature trees, in their autumn yellow, in Korea.

Row of yellow ginkgo trees in Nami Island, Korea

My ginkgo tale is not beautiful. A couple of weeks ago, I had a medical appointment. I had to go out, even though it was a horrible day. The wind was howling and the rain was bucketing down. When I arrived, there was only one parking space, underneath an enormous ginkgo tree. It was in its full golden autumn glory.

leaves and fruit of ginkgo bilobaWhat I didn’t know—not until I came out 45 minutes later—was that ginkgo trees are either male or female. I was parked under a female. And female ginkgo trees bear fruit.

The fruit are about the size of a large cherry or small plum. They smell unpleasant. And when ripe, they are very soft and squidgy. (I should add that, in Japan and China, the nut-like kernals inside the fruit are a delicacy.)

Anyway, when I came out, I found that my car was covered in sticky, squashed ginkgo fruit. The fierce wind was blowing the fruit off the huge tree and it was bouncing off any flat surface and splatting wherever possible. Mostly, I have to say, on my car. I tried my best to wipe most of it off in the car park but it was impossible to get rid of all the residue. So I drove home, peering through my smeary windscreen. And cursing.

As you do.

woman in wind and rain with umbrella blown outside in

I didn’t have an umbrella but you get the idea.

Back home, even though it was still blowing a gale and bucketing with rain, I parked the car next to the outside tap. Then I hauled on my waterproof trousers and hooded rain jacket, and put the hose on max pressure. You can probably picture me, out there in the driving rain, washing my car. You are allowed to laugh. The hivies certainly did, when I told them.
I must have looked like a prize idiot to anyone passing and, with hindsight, it is funny.

But needs must. Would you have left all that sticky goo to eat into your paintwork?
No, I didn’t think so.

In other words, the ginkgo tree (the female one, at least) may have splendid autumn colour, but it’s definitely a DOWN in my book.

Joanna Maitland author

Joanna, (female) ginkgo hater

10 thoughts on “Autumn colour: ups and downs

  1. Charlotte Betts

    I’m afraid I was uncharitable enough to laugh at the image of you washing your car in a howling gale but the images of the trees in their autumn glory are definitely an UP and have set me up for the day!

  2. Liz Fielding

    The colours are gorgeous, Joanna and that avenue of ginkgo is stunning, although I do sympathise (honestly) with the hosing down in a lashing gale. Low sunlight is a problem. I was totally blinded twice on a very short trip recently as I navigated bends. Complete nightmare.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I do agree on the low sunlight problem. It’s especially bad at the moment, because the roads are so wet. So we not only have the sun shining directly into our eyes but added glare as well. And using the sun visor doesn’t always cut it, either. Still, we’ll miss that sun soon, when it starts getting dark even earlier.

  3. Sophie

    Gorgeous photographs.

    Much sympathy on stinky gingko fruit, Joanna. I got some on my shoe at the Chelsea Physic Garden a couple of weeks ago and felt very sorry for myself having to take a scrubbing brush to it when I got home. But your car washing in the rain trumps that by a country mile. Shall learn to count my blessings more regularly.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Made me laugh, Sophie. Thank you. I have blessings, too, namely a hose attachment that produces a jet with enough power to blast off the stinky, sticky goo. If I hadn’t had that, I’d have been scrubbing it off by hand, one blob at a time. Also in the rain 😉

  4. lesley2cats

    Yes, sorry – I laughed. Again. But I love the colour and I love autumn – in fact, we got married in mid-October and our reception at Hampton Court was made much of by a video photographer of our acquaintance. Thank you for the beautiful photographs, Joanna.

  5. Yvonne Setters

    Beautiful pictures of the trees but had to laugh as l pictured you washing your car in the rain.

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