Gardening / Leaves, leaves, glorious leaves

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Time to choose trees for autumn colour.

THIS week is all about leaves, glorious leaves, an inescapable part of autumn in Canberra.

Cedric Bryant.

While it’s also a season considerably more predictable than spring, the unexpected characteristic of autumn is the timing of the early arrival of frosts.

Two important reminders about autumn in Canberra:

  • Burning leaves is illegal for the obvious reason of pollution.
  • Don’t rake leaves into the gutters, where they can block stormwater drains.
An ideal compost heap for the larger garden.

ELABORATE compost bins are unnecessary for leaves. Just a simple 1-1.5 diameter circle of chicken wire held in place with two or three tomato stakes does the job.

Leaves break down faster if they are shredded, particularly oak leaves. Incidentally, oak leaves are higher in nitrogen than almost any other leaf. I use the mower with the catcher on to shred leaves with half of the leaves going directly on to the garden and the other half into the compost heap.

My compost bins, which I have illustrated before, work near to perfect.

I ensure every second board is missing to provide good air circulation.

Detail for fixing boards for the front of a compost heap.

I fill one first and, when full, leave it for the material to gradually compost until spring or summer, then start filling the second one. The pallets are more than 20 years old. The front is recycled fence palings held in place with tomato stakes fixed to the pallets. Note the plastic agricultural pipe in the centre. This is for the regular application of liquid seaweed to speed the decomposition.

A good handful of garden lime to every couple of barrow loads of leaves is recommended.

I RECKON the best spot to view Canberra’s glorious kaleidoscope of leaf colour of the deciduous trees is an early morning visit to the top of Mount Ainslie, with a mist rising from the lake adding to the magic of the moment. Perhaps you’d like to share what you like most about autumn by emailing before the end of April.


  • Now’s the time to select trees with the best autumn colour, starting perhaps with the maples.
  • Regularly clear leaves off small hedges such as box or Osmanthus, the weight of wet leaves can cause irreparable damage.
  • When planting trees and shrubs dig a square hole rather than a round hole, allowing the roots to spread more evenly. In clay soils a round hole encourages root circulating.
  • If a stake is needed to support a new tree always put the stake in place first to avoid root damage.
  • Don’t put chemical fertilisers in the planting hole, they can seriously burn new roots. Water in with liquid seaweed after planting.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.


  1. Hello. My email is directed to Mr Cedric Bryant. I read with interest your article of Sept 2016 titled “Living without lawn”. In particular you discuss/review a book by author Oliver Filippi titled “ The Dry Gardening Handbook”. I am interested in purchasing this book. Do you know where I can purchase?
    John Pasqua

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