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On return from a week's absence, I was eager to see how our autumn pattern of colours had developed over the past few days in the Garden - ever hopeful that the leathery leaves of the London planes had been whisked away by the high winds last week - they hadn't. But the leaves of field maple had now turned a vibrant yellow and the beautiful honeyed glow of beech had faded. Several hazel have yet to turn colour and many berries and hips remain on trees and shrubs. Here is more, from Larissa who finds some striking comparisons with last year:

 

"This time last year I wrote about the autumnal work we were busy with in the Wildlife Garden. It was 27 November and autumn was well under way. This year, it all seems a bit late. News articles have appeared since October debating whether autumn is late, and by the Woodland Trust’s estimations from data collected in their citizen science project Nature’s Calendar, autumn did arrive around 14 days later than previous years.

 

So it got me wondering and digging around last year’s photos to compare them to this year and there are definitely some variations. The first noticeable difference on last year is the abundance of fruits and berries we have had in the Garden. In fact the rowan (Sorbus acuparia) is still holding on to some fruit not yet eaten by the blackbirds – who haven’t had a short supply of food this year!

 

1a - 21 nov 2013 (Rowan berries) J. Jackson.jpg

Rowan fruits are in abundance this year with large bunches such as this one covering the trees.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

1b - 14 Nov 2012 (rowan trees) J. Jackson.jpg

The rowan tree last year, on 14 November 2012.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

1c - 21 nov 2013 (Rowan trees) J. Jackson.jpg

The same rowan tree this year, on 21 November 2013.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

You can see from the above two pictures the branches of the rowan trees in 2012 were bare compared to 2013, where the leaves are hanging on and the fruits are abundant.

 

At the edge of the meadow, the beech (Fagus sylvatica) and hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) trees last year were already vibrant in mid-November, but the colours still hadn’t matched 2012 by late November this year.

 

2a- 14 Nov 2012 (meadow trees) J. Jackson.jpg

Our beech woodland in 2012.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

2b- 21 Nov 2013 (Meadow trees) J. Jackson.jpg

And the beech this year, on 21 November 2013.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

Looking out from the bridge across the chalk pond, you can see from the pictures below the green leaves on the trees that had already turned two weeks earlier last year.

 

3 a- 14 nov 2012 (chalk pond) J. Jackson.jpg

The chalk pond in 2012.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

3 b- 21 nov 2013 (chalk pond) J. Jackson.jpg

And the chalk pond in 2013.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

Our other woodlands such as this coppice area in the centre of the Garden are strikingly different, and the mature lime tree (Tilia x europea) in the centre of the garden still had some leaves late November this year.

 

4a - 15 nov 2012 (W07) J. Jackson.jpg

Our coppice woodland in 2012.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

4 b- 22 Nov 2013 (Wo7) J. Jackson.jpg

And a similar view of the coppice woodland in 2013.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

Even now, in December things seem behind of last year. We are still raking falling plane tree (Plantanus x hispanica) leaves and looking up at the branches, some still rather full! I can’t help but view them by how many bags they will fill. The Hazels (Corylus avellana), oaks (Quercus robur) and silver birch (Betula pendula) also have many more leaves still attached compared to last year.

 

5b - 9 dec 2013 (W04) l.cooper.jpg

Hazel, oak and birch trees still clinging on to some leaves this year ...

© Larissa Cooper

 

5a - 9 dec 2012(W04) sue snell.jpg

... compared to last year

© Sue Snell

 

But there is a positive side to this. This time last year, the ground was frosty and cold...

 

6a -9 dec 2012 (leaves) l.cooper.jpg

Leaves on the ground were covered in frost this time last year.

© Larissa Cooper

 

...which we are yet to experience this year, but when we do, we'll still be out there in the Wildlife Garden, preparing it for you all to come and enjoy when we re-open on a daily basis again in spring!

 

6b -9 dec 2012 (leaves) l.cooper.jpg

No frost in the garden yet this year...

© Larissa Cooper

 

You can help the woodland trust monitor wildlife phenology by taking part in their citizen science projects at Nature’s Calendar.

 

Thank you Larissa!

 

And for more autumn delights from the Wildlife Garden you can watch Mark Spencer on his fungal foray in the Garden last month: