Sunday, December 04, 2011

Copper coloured leaves

click photo to enlarge
Quite a few plants have so-called "copper" leaf variants. One of the most noticeable in the UK is the copper beech tree.Usually seen as a single specimen, sometimes in the form of a hedge, its shiny brown leaves catch the eye when it's planted next to ranks of green leaved trees and shrubs, and it can bring welcome contrast and interest to a scene. But not always.

Sometimes you see a situation where people have been bitten by the copper leaf bug, and every third tree has them. Then the effect is gloomy and grim: darkness replaces the lightness of sun-dappled and translucent green leaves. The worst example I know of being seduced by copper-leaved trees can be seen on the perimeter of a large rural garden some miles from me. The owner has alternated dark conifers with copper-leaved trees. In spring and summer when other trees look at their best this row looks very depressing.

The other common copper-leaved tree is the maple. These can look great in spring, summer and autumn because of the way the leaves change and produce interesting hues. However, my feelings about them are coloured by the fact that I lived in a house where the neighbours' garden had one close by the boundary fence between us and them. Only when all the other trees had shed their leaves and they'd been collected would this maple drop its own: and then only if the wind was blowing towards my garden!

Plenty of smaller plants have copper variants. I particularly like the dark brown heuchera. I have some of these in my garden, as I do an example of that other favourite, the copper/red-leaved berberis (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea). This plant looks great when its yellow flowers are alongside the leaves and also when the red berries are showing. But, it's late autumn when the leaves change colour that it looks at its most radiant. Then the red/brown disappears to be replaced by yellows, pinks, purples and almost-blues. When seen against a background of blue-green leaved plants these colours look magnificent.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm (macro)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 800
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off