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Autumn colour birds Fungi Trees

A Kaleidoscope of Colour

I don’t ever remember Ireland being famous for its autumn colours and my memories from childhood are that leaves turned a dull brown at best before falling. Scotland had the perfect climate to produce dramatic autumn colours and I was pleasantly surprised when I first saw the vivid yellows of the ferns in the lower stretches of the Cairngorms coupled with the deep red rowan berries. This year the Autumn colours here in West Cork have been a revelation and are as good as I have ever seen. I am assuming that it is due to the very hot and long summer and to a lesser extent the selection of trees in the garden.

This maple is hidden behind the garden shed and is well protected from almost all winds resulting in a month long burst of dramatic colours. Its near neighbour is less protected but survived the recent storms relatively untouched. The vivid yellow is the perfect contrast to the purple hydrangea.

Details of the yellow maple in the copse beside the house.

Another view of the maple. As you can see it has retained its leaves when most of the other trees are bare.

I have planted a number of dogwoods throughout the garden for the vivid colour of their stems in winter. I was slightly disappointed when none produced any of their delicate white berries this year. However, they have redeemed themselves by producing multi-coloured leaves for the first time since planted.

The Blueberry and Aronia berry bushes can be relied on for colour every year and this year is no exception. The colours almost make up for the fact that the birds get all of the berries each year and so these fruit bushes act as ornamental plants at best. I am determined to eventually take advantage of their antioxidant properties and have great plans to fence off one or two shrubs for my own use. I am not optimistic of success but one can but try.

The lovely delicate colours of the Aronia plant with their slightly greyish hue.

This lovely shrub is a testament to the resilience of many of the plants in the garden. When I arrived here it was a lone, sickly thing struggling to survive on the bare hillside and just a couple of feet high. Over the years it did not grow an inch and began to look terminally ill. I moved it to a sheltered spot just thirty feet away. This is its growth in just three years. The lovely colour this year is an extra bonus. The sharp thorns make it the perfect shelter for the birds waiting for food in winter and I usually place a bird table close to it for this reason.

The Berberi have produced exceptional displays this year with one exception. Berberis Juliana has always had vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves. This year it has been a damp squib and I have no explanation for this although there must be one. However, as it produces dramatic colours in otherwise dull autumns I can’t complain.

Even the Hypericum have had an uncharacteristic burst of colour. In other years the leaves just turn the traditional dull brown before falling.

The Rosa Rugosa is another regular in the vivid leaf category. I was lucky to catch the last rosehip for this photograph as the birds have scoffed the lot in the last month or so. I have planted enough to provide for them and for my own syrup making so I don’t have to consider fencing any off to harvest my own crop unlike every other berry in the garden.

I continue to find new varieties of fungi in the garden and am still struggling with identification. This is partly due to the fact that I am reluctant to pick what is often the only specimen in case it prevents it from spreading its spores for next year’s crop. I think that I will have to find a course to try and improve my knowledge. It does not help that some specimens vary dramatically over the course of their short lives. The specimen below is an older version of the fungi that I call apricot fudge. No longer looking like its new name.

I call this beauty lemon lolly. Like many of the fungi in the garden this is small enough to miss unless you are searching for it. It seems to like wildflower area on the driveway once it has had its second cut in September.

For a number of years, I had a large fairy ring encircling one of the pine trees on the drive. One year it was joined by a second semicircle of mushrooms of a different variety. I have missed them the last few years and search for signs that they are coming back each day. I was so intent on doing this that I walked past this small group of mushrooms without noticing that they were forming a perfect circle.

The view from the garden.

The weather is turning cold and I am gradually putting the garden to bed. Planting garlic is my next task and then I have to attend to the birds. The pheasants have started coming into the fruit garden and everywhere the blue tits are making their presence felt. The robins are being particularly attentive and I can’t help feeling that they are all giving me the subtle, or not so subtle, hint that it is time to put out the bird feeders. Why do I feel as if the birds dominate my life in all seasons?

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