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Down to Earth: Trees can’t fail to attract attention in autumn

“Whether you are present enough to appreciate trees and nature all year round or not, it is hard not to take notice during autumn.” October’s turning leaves and cropping fruits are a joy, says Cambridge designer Robert Barker

Trees can't help but attract attention in autumn
Trees can't help but attract attention in autumn

It is not often that trees are enrolled in political and social discussion, but this has been the case recently with the controversy over the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London and with talk of many cities - including Cambridge - enforcing a congestion charge.

One point raised was that low emission zones will need to be partnered with additional planting of trees to help clear the air. It is interesting that yet again we are calling on nature to help us out, like we did during the Great Smog of London in 1952. Despite our advances in almost all fields of modern life, it is the simple tree that is called upon to help us keep breathing.

Not only do trees release oxygen for us to breathe, but it has been proven that the sight of trees accelerates recovery from illnesses and surgery for hospital patients. Trees can alleviate stress, stabilise blood pressure and help lower levels of anxiety and depression. Pretty amazing for something that most of us take for granted.

Whether you are present enough to appreciate trees and nature all year round or not, it is hard not to take notice during autumn, especially in the month of October when the trees in our streets, roads, parks and countryside turn into a dazzling display of reds,

yellows, deep purples and oranges. There are too many amazing species of trees that show an incredible autumn colour to fully list, but my particular favourites are Cercidiphyllum japonicum, Rhus typhina (pictured), Acer griseum and Amelanchier lamarckii.

As we all know, some trees also provide a huge amount of fruit in autumn. Each October at our very own Cambridge University Botanic Garden there is a celebratory event dedicated to apples. Apple Day will take place on Sunday, October 22 this year, where guests will be able to taste more than 25 heritage varieties and enjoy activities for children, live music, food trucks etc. My family and I visit every year as it is a great day out.

Not all fruit from trees is edible, but that doesn’t mean that the fruit isn’t of interest. Trees such as Sorbus species produce amazing scarlet-coloured berries that look stunning in the autumn evening sun.

Trees have also been in the news recently with the publicised social media trend of Forest Bathing, which actually originated as an ecotherapy in the early 90s in Japan called shinrin-yoku. I am not one for trends, but will jump at the chance this month to take in the atmosphere in a forest as an antidote to tech-boom burnout!

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.

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