14 April 2022

Discover Canberra's 'patchwork quilt of colour' this autumn

| Claire Fenwicke
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Cooler autumn temperatures are already blowing into Canberra, transforming the Territory’s foliage into a stunning kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, yellows and browns.

But naming the best place to discover our autumn displays is a tall order for the National Arboretum executive branch manager Scott Saddler.

“I think this whole city’s an arboretum,” he said.

“There are more than a million trees across our parks and streets and a lot of them are deciduous types from Europe.”

Walter Burley Griffin outlined specific trees to be planted across Canberra in his 1913-plan and the National Capital Authority still follows the same directions in the newer suburbs.

“He wanted shade cover in summer but to let the light through in winter,” Mr Saddler said.

“Australian natives don’t change much, but the overseas trees from Europe and Japan are species that formulate our colourful views.”

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Trees across the Territory are beginning their ‘senescence’ period when they change from being covered in green leaves to completely bare.

“Over the next three to eight weeks, Canberra will be transformed into this amazing patchwork quilt of colour,” Mr Saddler said.

Species that particularly deliver gorgeous autumn foliage include cherry trees, maple trees, Japanese dogwoods, oaks, crepe myrtles, pear trees, ginkgos and sylvaticas.

Mr Saddler said Canberra’s climate is pretty unique in that the city experiences significant differences in temperature throughout the year, meaning Territorians get to experience all four seasons.

“It probably has the highest differential of any town in Australia,” he said. “We go from minus 10 degrees to 45 degrees, so you get that change of season.

“That means you get to see that timeframe of winter upon us. And the colours don’t change overnight; it’s fascinating to see them slowly turn from dark to light green, then to yellow, orange and bright red.”

Canberra isn’t the only place Mr Saddler said you could witness autumn in its golden glory – the Capital region also has a lot to offer.

“Cooma’s got an amazing array of species, as does Jindabyne and I’d say Tumut is one of the most colourful towns in Australia for autumn.”

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The National Arboretum is one Canberra location singled out as ideal to discover the region’s autumn colours by the ACT Government’s autumn leaves map.

Oak trees and poplars line Lake Burley Griffin, while you can discover the vivid reds, oranges and yellows of Griffith’s American elm trees along Grant Crescent and Flinders Way.

The older inner-north and inner-south suburbs also offer a stunning display with Ainslie, O’Connor, Yarralumla and Deakin all places to check out.

If you don’t have time to travel across Canberra and its surrounds, you can discover autumn’s colours in miniature at the National Arboretum’s Bonsai and Penjing Collection.

“Just because they’re miniature doesn’t mean they don’t change,” Mr Saddler said.

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The upcoming Canberra Tree Week also offers opportunities to delve deeper into the city’s autumn colours, with guided walks and tree climbing for kids offered as part of the program from 30 April to 8 May 2022.

In the meantime Canberrans are encouraged to take advantage of the seasons of Canberra and discover the stunning displays all around us.

“Already here at the Arboretum the cherry trees are turning red, the maples yellow and the tulip trees are changing from yellow to bright orange,” Mr Saddler said.

“[Canberra] will be a sea of colour in the next month.”

Keep an eye on the City Services website for updates on the Canberra Tree Week calendar of activities.

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Tree Week starts on 30 April (Google the program). Come along to Telopea Park and hear about its trees and history on that day.

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