Life’s A Beech

Every Autumn it is the same.

Magazines and blogs (and, unusually, the main news) all have stories about the rich and gorgeous colours of Autumn. The deep reds among the Acers at Westonbirt, the singing oranges at Kew, the extraordinary buttery quality of the yellows at RHS Wisley etc etc.

I appreciate and understand all of this: I have a couple of trees that I like to visit, without fail, every year but I am still always smitten by the gorgeousness of the Beech. It is not a major glamour puss like Liquidambar or Nyssa sylvatica. It is more like Honor Blackman than Jayne Mansfield: a little bit sotto voce, more modest but at the same time sparkling and extraordinarily desirable.

It is a tree with a double identity. In its natural state it will, as you well know, become a great grey barked titan with huge branches. Come the autumn it will drop all it’s leaves which, for a brief moment carpet the woodland floors. However, if you clip it as topiary or a hedge it will cling onto its leaves for dear life. They will not fall until the new leaves push them off their perch in the Springtime.

The main point is that fading leaves are wonderful. Patches of deep browny gravy colour, mixed with the lighter tones of vanilla fudge, the pale yellow of Madeira sponge, the light honey of sun bronzed shoulders and the pale green of a lazy turtle. All these colours, and more, can be seen in the leaves of a Beech tree. Eventually the leaves of both trees and hedges will brown and crisp to the colour of laundered hazelnuts before collapsing into rich compost.

Sometimes the quiet ones are the best.

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2 Responses to Life’s A Beech

  1. Beeches remind me of my childhood. We had 3 large trees in our garden and we would spend hours raking the leaves into huge piles and jumping in them and then having large bonfires.

  2. Ben Lannoy says:

    Beech trees really do bring back some lovely memories for me too from being on my uncles farm in Northumberland. They are beautiful to look at and they can be used in just about every form. We bought in some pleached carpinus not so long ago with 2 metre stems and square frames that are 1.5 metres across! Great article and it’s so nice to see a native to the south of england being highlighted for its natural beauty!

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