Going quietly Posted on November 25, 2016

Kensington's biggest field maple, by the Serpentine

I’ve never really believed Marie Antoinette said ‘Let them eat cake’ or even “What’s wrong with croissants?’ I prefer the story where she looks out of her window with a cry of delight and sends for the gardener who had the pretty idea of scattering yellow leaves on the lawn. That was on the day the staff at Versailles had downed tools.

The last leaves are hanging in the sycamore as I write. Three weeks have seen countless thousands fall. We have filled ten bin bags for the council to take away. It’s no way to run a sustainable garden, I know, but where do I make a compost heap in this tiny space, how much use is sycamore compost, and where would I use it?

Everyone agrees that the south has seen a glorious autumn, a slow glow in calm weather for weeks on end. We haven’t seen frost or strong wind; few trees have excelled as brilliant individuals; instead they have all concurred in gradual transformation through fading green and yellows to a uniform dull gold. One of the most sustained performers, in buttery yellow, has been the humble field maple. Liquidambars, the usual motley stars, have gone quietly; Pyrus ‘Chanticleer’, the pavement pear, is the exception round here, turning brilliant pale orange with touches of red. The magnolia in our front garden, with huge leaves, A4-sized ovals some of them, provoked by a spring haircut, is the last to shed. The plain swept surfaces, when all the leaves are gone, have their own appeal – though Marie Antoinette might not agree.

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