It is time to enjoy the treat of nature’s autumnal colour shows

Parrotia persica. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Parrotia persica. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Autumn is awesome. While the backdrop of our native bush stays resplendent in various shades of green, we are treated to fiery autumn colour in the garden.

The witch hazel family, Hamamelidaceae includes many deciduous trees and shrubs renowned for autumn leaf colour followed by the flowers appearing on bare branches in winter or spring.

There are several genera and cultivars grown throughout the Dunedin Botanic Garden which are beginning their seasonal performance.

The most well-known genus in this family is witch hazel, Hamamelis. Many cultivars have been selected by horticulturists, providing us with shrubs and small trees bearing yellow to orange autumn foliage, then in late winter or early spring the bare stems are decorated with spidery flowers in shades of yellow through to red. Hamamelis mollis has the bonus of being scented.

One of the first trees to show autumn colour is the Persian ironwood, Parrotia persica. A single leaf can contain every shade of green, yellow, orange, red and/or purple. Patchy grey bark sets off the small red thready spring flowers.

Winter-hazel, Corylopsis is a genus from Asia with yellow, orange and/or red autumn colour. Pendulous racemes of scented creamy green through to pale lemon flowers hang from the branches in late winter.

The zig-zag branch habit of witch-elder, Fothergilla provides interest over winter. White bottle brush flowers tip each branch in spring. Leaves turn bright yellow, orange, or red before they fall.

Garden Life is produced by the Dunedin Botanic Garden. For further information contact Robyn Abernethy.

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