Can we talk about this yet?
For me one of the very first autumn indicators in my garden is the guelder rose. Though its berries have been maraschino red for some time, the redness is now bleeding into the leaves as chlorophyll production begins to shut down for the year.
Our garden sits within the Black Bourn river valley, connected by two dyke-like streams, probably man-made, to drain the waterlogged peaty soil into the river. This is ideal territory for the guelder rose and it has a firm foothold amongst the huge alders that dominate the skyline.
It is a shrub of great value for wilder parts of the garden owing to its long season of interest and benefit to wildlife – especially the mistle thrush when the frosts have softened the berries.
Beginning with filigree lacy umbels in the spring, which evolve into the aforementioned berries and finish in a blazing red. It is our main provider of autumn colour. Wet, calcareous, peaty soil is not a great environment for the famous autumnal performers such as maples and the sweet gum. I have a large sweet gum that always looks as though it’s just about to colour up beautifully then promptly defoliates. I suspect that fertile soil and dampness has something to do with it, as in the nearby dry, clayey Bury St Edmunds it has been used as a street tree to great effect.
I have allowed it to colonise the stream and pond edges where it is set to great effect amongst Norfolk reed and other wetland grass species.