"Baby leaves"

September sees the unfurling of beautiful baby leaves everywhere.
Sunday, 11 September 2022     

Leaves of Quercus robur, the oak tree, in early spring

Whatever it is about babies and kittens that make them so irresistible, the same must apply for new leaves on trees and shrubs in spring. I find myself drawn to them and their appeal never palls for me. They are so tiny, so cute, so perfectly formed, so free of all the flaws that will later on in the year mark them (sunburn, bug and snail holes etc), and just so wonderfully brand new! A walk around my neighbourhood and my own garden reminded me of some of my favourites this weekend.

I think the baby leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs are probably the most beautiful of all, as they tremblingly unfurl on bare branches from their pointed buds. Many have a wonderful lime colour, which I have extolled on in a previous blog - such as oak trees, Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' and Magnolia denudata. I love seeing these lime-coloured leaves nearby some of the gorgeous Euphorbia species and cultivars which are blooming at the moment and the dainty lime trumpets of Nicotiana langsdorffii.

However, other plants have complex tints of other colours in their young foliage, including some of the Japanese maple trees (Acer species). The dwarf form of pomegranate, Punica granatum var. nana (ht 1m), has slim orange leaves, which sparkle in the sunlight. In summer, it has small orange flowers, followed by compact fruit. It is worthwhile having a few deciduous varieties of shrubs and trees in the garden simply to enjoy their changing cloaks across the seasons. The spring hues usually have turned to refreshing green by the time summer comes, then autumn will bring another colour change.

I came across a wonderful deciduous tree as a street planting in my area, which I think is one of the Toona species (pictured left) and has amazing pinnate burgundy foliage. Backlit by the afternoon sun, it was a magnificent sight. Many of the familiar Australian native rainforest trees and shrubs, such as Syzygium species and cultivars, Macadamia species and Elaeocarpus reticulatus, have stunning spring foliage, often coloured orange, purplish, pink, bronze or red. Orange or bronze young leaves can look effective grown nearby to clumps of orange Clivia, which are smothered at the moment in their trumpet-like blooms.

Exotic evergreen shrubs can also have exquisite new foliage in early spring. One example is the burgundy form of Loropetalum chinense, which has tiny ruby-coloured leaves opening simultaneously with its pretty dark pink fringe-like flowers this month. This can become quite a large shrub with time; it can be clipped to form a more compact shape. Another lovely evergreen shrub with interesting new foliage is Photinia (which has various species and cultivars), which at the moment is sporting red leaves that look like they are lacquered. The spring foliage of most evergreen trees and shrubs is often highly polished, adding to its appeal. The variegated green and yellow leaves of Euonymus japonicus 'Aureus' are very shiny and fresh looking, and they are currently making an attractive partner for yellow Abutilon, which is floriferous at the moment.

Every day brings fresh growth in the garden in September - enjoy!

Blog originally posted 12 September 2010; updated 11 September 2022.

 Reader Comments

1/5  Holly - 4615 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 13 September 2010

Recently we moved from coastal Hervey Bay Qld to Booie in the South Burnett. Winter was a new experience - ice! Deciduous trees were bare for such a short time on the coast and we are enjoying watching the garden come to life. Cold winters, hot summers - new plants to find. Great web site. Holly

Thanks, Holly. It is a wonderful time of year - even more so in cooler climates. Deirdre

2/5  Therese - 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 13 September 2010

Deidre - your baby leaves blog was a joy to read and look at. I think the extended cooler winter this year has made for even richer colours this spring - this time last year they were already wilting under the heat & sun. Heres to a cooler summer!

Thanks, Therese. I also am hoping for a better summer than last year. And you could be right that the cooler winter made for better colour in spring. It certainly helps the flowering of the cool-climate perennials. Deirdre

3/5  Jill - 3941 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Deirdre, your baby leaves blog inspired me to take another look around my garden and to look more closely at the new growth of leaves and of blossoms. Thank you.

Thanks, Jill! Deirdre

4/5  Ann - 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 16 September 2010

This late spring I was most excited to see leaves appearing on our variegated Weigela and the oak-leafed hydrangea, both of which appeared more than dormant!

I agree it is good when the leaves open because some of these deciduous shrubs can look quite dead! Deirdre

5/5  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 15 September 2022

Both babies and baby leaves bring happiness, I think. My crepe myrtles are just emerging, mostly in bronze colours, later to change to green. From my back verandah, I delight in seeing the liquidambar in the nearby park, starting to put forth its leaves; I know then that spring is on the horizon. Thanks, Margaret. Good to be able to see a liquidambar tree coming into leaf without having to have one in your garden! Deirdre

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