How many times have you used the expression that money doesn’t grow on trees? Well, guess what, it’s not true. There’s no need to rush out and search garden centres throughout the land for a good soil conditioner when the best of all of them is available to us free of charge — literally falling at our feet every day at the moment.

Okay, so perhaps the euro notes aren’t falling from the trees but the raw materials for the best soil additive we can use are. Collect fallen leaves, tie them up in a hessian bag — or even just a big heap that you can then cover — and in less than 12 months you will have a bag or a heap of beautiful, crumbly, friable soil enricher.

Even if that all seems like a bit too much work, you can just leave the leaves on top of beds and borders to break down themselves as the earthworms and soil microbes do the work for you.

Whatever you do with the fallen leaves, do not throw them out. Look at every sack of collected leaves as a ten euro note, then you’ll see what I mean, money does actually grow on trees.

For too long, we have paid too much heed to the marketers of gardening products telling us that we need this product or that product for a perfect garden.

What we need is all around us, offered generously each day by Mother Nature. Add in a bit of knowledge and courage to go with our gut instinct and off we go.

Irish Examiner gardening columnist Peter Dowdall. Picture: John Allen
Irish Examiner gardening columnist Peter Dowdall. Picture: John Allen

Perhaps I say this every year but I really do think that the autumn colour on the trees before they drop their leaves is better this year than normal.

Everywhere I look, I see trees dripping with seasonal colour — I’m constantly stopping to take photos on my phone for that perfect Instagram shot but of course, no picture ever does them justice, for a picture doesn’t capture the scent, the sounds, or the feeling of the cold winter air on your face and these, I think are all part of the enjoyment of autumn-early winter.

Cherry blossoms, thought of primarily for their beautiful blooms of either pink or white, depending on the variety, during the springtime are awash with colour right now.

Deep yellow and burnt orange coloured leaves, hanging on until a strong wind comes to divest the tree and give to the earthworms.

I was driving from Carrigaline towards Cork recently and as I got to the area where the road begins to widen I looked to the right (where Carrs Hill joins the road in the other direction) and my jaw quite literally dropped at the colour everywhere.

I had to be careful to keep my eyes on the road and not the magnificent display.

This is less mellow fruitfulness and more vibrant —like a visual euphony. This entire stretch of road on both sides is really quite breathtaking.

During the spring, it’s alive with the colour supplied by gorse and all the insect life and other wildlife that rely on it and now, autumn colours and winter stems. Such a pity that our enlightened powers that be, see this area of natural beauty as a suitable location for a motorway.

Perhaps, more cars and fewer trees are the answer after all!

Much of the autumn colour on our roadsides is provided by Carpinus, Fraxinus, Acer, Crataegus, Salix and Sorbus but I recently noticed some beautiful Tilia (lime) in Cork city.

Tilia cordata, the small-leaved lime is a good tree for cities and urban areas as it will withstand high levels of pollution.

Every time I talk about trees, I marvel at them. They will absorb the pollution and dirty air which we create and in return, they pump out fresh oxygen all day long.

Do bear in mind though that if you are thinking of planting a tree in your garden, that the word “small” in the common name refers to the leaves and not the tree itself.

Tilia cordata can reach 15-20 metres in height and 10 metres or more in width.

In cities, trees are grown as single stem standards, this means that they have a clear stem to two metres or thereabouts so that people can walk underneath safely.

For our own gardens, we can get standards but we can also use fathered specimens, that is trees that have foliage and side stems from the bottom up, much as they would in the wild.

Many species also come as what is termed, multi-stem specimens. What that means is that, as it sounds, instead of just one stem coming from the root system, many stems are allowed to grow to create that multi-stem and less formal look.

Not all trees are suited to being grown as multi stems but Betula (birch), some Pinus (pines) and magnolias to name a few do look well if grown in this way.

• Got a gardening question for Peter Dowdall? Email [email protected]

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