Baby leaves

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Leaves of Quercus robur, the oak tree, in early spring

Whatever it is about babies and kittens that make them so irresistible, the same must apply for new leaves on trees and shrubs in spring. I find myself drawn to them and their appeal never palls for me. They are so tiny, so cute, so perfectly formed, so free of all the flaws that will later on in the year mark them (sunburn, bug and snail holes etc), and just so wonderfully brand new! A walk around my neighbourhood and my own garden reminded me of some of my favourites this weekend.

New growth on Robinia pseudoacacia Frisia

I think the baby leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs are probably the most beautiful of all, as they tremblingly unfurl on bare branches from their pointed buds. Many have a wonderful lime colour, which I have extolled on in a previous blog - such as oak trees, Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' and Magnolia denudata. I love seeing these lime-coloured leaves nearby some of the gorgeous Euphorbia species and cultivars which are blooming at the moment and the dainty lime trumpets of Nicotiana langsdorffii.

Acer species in spring

However, other plants have complex tints of other colours in their young foliage, including some of the Japanese maple trees (Acer species). The dwarf form of pomegranate, Punica granatum var. nana (ht 1m), has slim orange leaves, which sparkle in the sunlight. In summer, it has small orange flowers, followed by compact fruit. It is worthwhile having a few deciduous varieties of shrubs and trees in the garden simply to enjoy their changing cloaks across the seasons. The spring hues usually have turned to refreshing green by the time summer comes, then autumn will bring another colour change.

Foliage of Toona species?

I came across a wonderful deciduous tree as a street planting in my area, which I think is one of the Toona species (pictured left) and has amazing pinnate burgundy foliage. Backlit by the afternoon sun, it was a magnificent sight. Many of the familiar Australian native rainforest trees and shrubs, such as Syzygium species and cultivars, Macadamia species and Elaeocarpus reticulatus, have stunning spring foliage, often coloured orange, purplish, bronze or red. Orange or bronze young leaves can look effective grown nearby to clumps of orange Clivia, which are smothered at the moment in their trumpet-like blooms.

Burgundy form of Loropetalum chinense

Exotic evergreen shrubs can also have exquisite new foliage in early spring. One example is the burgundy form of Loropetalum chinense, which has tiny ruby-coloured leaves opening simultaneously with its pretty dark pink fringe-like flowers this month. This can become quite a large shrub with time; it can be clipped to form a more compact shape. Another lovely evergreen shrub with interesting new foliage is Photinia (which has various species and cultivars), which at the moment is sporting red leaves that look like they are lacquered. The spring foliage of most evergreen trees and shrubs is often highly polished, adding to its appeal. The variegated green and yellow leaves of Euonymus japonicus 'Aureus' are very shiny and fresh looking, and they are currently making an attractive partner for yellow Abutilon, which is floriferous at the moment.

Every day brings fresh growth in the garden in September - enjoy!