Gardening with Charlie Wilkins — Come and see the trees
Life & Style

Gardening with Charlie Wilkins — Come and see the trees

IT is a great treat for me to visit our local arboretum (Fota Arboretum near Carrigtwohill Co. Cork) almost on a twice weekly basis throughout the year.

What a magnificent facility we the people of Cork city and county have, minutes from our home.

The people who visit this world renowned arboretum go to admire mature trees, seasonal changes, colour, handsome foliage and all things aesthetic.

You too should try to visit an arboretum near you over the coming days.

Foliage, you could argue, is seldom bright and obvious but in autumn it puts on a spectacular display as deciduous trees and shrubs prepare for winter rest.

I welcome the glory days of these deciduous marvels.

How enjoyable was the forest of leaves they made during spring and all through our lamented summer, but now, as they begin to turn festive yellow, orange and brown I marvel all the more.

The sight and spectacle never fails to spiritually move me. Of course part of our kinship and relationship with trees is the knowledge that they will outlast us.

My few (in a small garden) certainly will, but for the best show in town I visit this arboretum to stand in awe at the stirrings, movement and beauty in the high canopy.

Last week in windy conditions, the leaves swiveled and pirouetted in the wind, many showing pale undersides and odd flashes of gold.

This is especially noticeable in the common Populus alba of the countryside, which boasts large leaves with silver undersides which twist and turn upwards when disturbed by wind, reflecting back their hairy reverse.

Populus tremula is another which has great capacity for ‘trembling’ and indeed for making gentle sounds as autumnal winds gain strength and velocity. The effect wherever seen, is wondrous.

Leaves are two-faced of course, mainly because of the different finish on the upper and lower surfaces, which brings us to the sensuous subject of leaf texture.

Sensuous because so many leaves seem to be inviting us to touch them; to feel their attractions through our finger tips.

They may be waxy, wooly, silky, clammy or crinkly; these are all conditions requiring tactile recognition.

And while some leaves, like a fully expanded banana frond (seen in the border near the wonderfully restored Orangery) as yet untorn by wind, may charm us by their fragility, others are no less fascinating for being thick and solid.

Our love for trees, foliage and flowers must surely stem from our childhood when we were naturally drawn to the marvels of nature and the ornamental garden. We have all been there.