THE SIZE of the amenity trees bears testament to how long there has been a supermarket on the site of Newport’s historic cattle market.

The line of Fraxinus angustifolia, the narrow-leaved ash, is more than 40 years old and for most of that time has provided a nice, attractive, but unassuming, fringe to the busy road.

But at this autumnal time this tree really comes into its own — and shines brightly. For brief weeks the trees delightfully shimmer reds turning to wonderful yellows and golds.

F. angustifolia is a large, fast-growing, spreading, deciduous tree, which next to Morrison’s will reach a zenith of 80ft tall, if allowed to grow unchecked.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Narrow-leaved ash.

Look more closely at its all-year-round beauty and you will see grey bark, finely and deeply fissured with age.

In spring lance-shaped, dark green and glossy leaflets emerge from brown winter buds. Insignificant greenish flowers are followed by winged fruits in the autumn.

Narrow-leaved ash is native to central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia. Across the UK it is planted as an ornamental amenity tree and is often found in parks and green spaces.

It is an ideal street tree, or for impoverished parts of the garden, as the roots are tolerant of drier soil conditions as well as being able to manage compacted soil.

Its only flaw is that the branches are brittle so good care and maintenance is needed.

Just round the corner from the ash trees there has been another fine show of autumn colour, Virginia creeper vines clinging to the row of roadside trees nearon the approach to Asda.

The vines are undoubtedly escapees from a garden, probably from discarded prunings. Virginia creeper is a long-time favourite of mine but it does not have universal popularity.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Virginia creeper.

As a young boy I loved the vivid autumn colours and still have the scrapbook made from bright yellow x-ray film paper containing still brilliant vermillion leaves taken from Ryde’s Puckpool Park where the creeper still scrambles up the battlements.

This is a vigorous climber hailing from North America and needs the canvas of a large garden to be seen to best effect.

To ensure fiery red foliage in autumn it is best grown in light, dappled shade. Plants are self-clinging but need some help to get started and can be readily pruned back in winter.

This plant is listed in the UK as an invasive non-native species and, while this does not prevent it being sold or grown, the RHS encourages those who do grow it to take care with disposing of prunings to stop unwanted spread.

It is propagated by layering or hardwood cuttings and looks particularly fine clothing historic buildings. Thanks to its anchoring feet it quickly climbs up house walls and greens and colours without support.

But before you garnish your house with this climbing plant you should check walls for cracks. Shoots could get in and cause damage and it will need pruning back from doors and windows too because it will try to get in.

Current thinking is that far from harbouring damaging damp, Virginia creeper protects walls from ultraviolet rays, rain, air pollution and temperature highs and lows.


The Isle of Wight Group of the Hardy Plant Society is hosting a talk by Julian Sutton called Adventures with Fancy Foliage. Julian is a lifelong plantsman, botanist and nurseryman, who, with his wife, runs the Desirable Plant Nursery in Totnes, Devon.

They specialise in rare, unusual, and offbeat herbaceous perennials sold by mail order — and he will be bringing a selection of plants for sale at the event.

The talk takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday, November 17, at Newport Parish Rooms.


  • Use the last of the dry weather to paint sheds and fences with preservatives before the winter arrives.
  • Give evergreen hedging a final trim before the bad weather sets in. Remember to clip only green growth from leylandii or you will leave brown patches that will never recover.
  • Re-use spent compost from annual container displays as a mulch on garden beds and borders.
  • Build a cold frame to protect young plants from extreme winter weather.
  • Keep an eye on potted conifers. Tall varieties may need staking in exposed, windy gardens.
  • Plant bare root raspberry and currant plants now for a delicious home-grown crop.
  • Tidy-up your strawberry plants, cutting off any dead leaves and removing runners.
  • Prune apple and pear trees anytime between now and February.
  • Don’t prune your plum trees now as they will be susceptible to silver leaf fungus — wait until midsummer.