The girl next door enters our livingroom, drops down on a chair and looks out into the garden. ‘He, you have a new tree!’ I look out of the window – a new tree? But instantly I understand what she is looking at – our Rhus Typhina (azijnboom) – it looks like it is set on fire, just like the whole garden is. These colours are amazing! Talking to friends from England, Germany and other parts of the Netherlands we conclude that during this autumn (2012) the colours of trees and shrubs are exceptional intense. This fact probably can be explained by whether circumstances.

In the mean time I ask myself why for example grass is not colouring that much, it still looks green to me. Imagine cows grazing on red grass! Wow, the world would go crazy.

Green is associated with freshness and is emotional speaking the colour of hope and peace. And as we know green is the most common colour in nature. The match between our emotions and the main colour of nature doesn’t seem to coincide. Technically speaking plants are green because of their chlorophyll. The question remains, why do trees and shrubs discolour in autumn? Of course the biochemical process of withdrawing the chlorophyll can explain it. But more interesting, what is the impact of this process to our heart? I am, and so do all the others I spoke to, enjoying these autumn colours very much, seeing these bright yellows and reds delivers energy. These colour explosions might help us to overcome the coming long, dark cold winter. Or … are there any other suggestions?

As persons interested in landscape and landscape architecture we could call ourselves lucky to work with colour and/or enjoying them. Working with, and enjoying colours, is next to working with time processes, with movement, with smell and taste very specific to landscape architecture. Therefore these aspects should have a prominent position within the curriculum of our master of Landscape Architecture. Please let me know if you agree.

Enjoy the autumn and get inspired!

Posted by:Inge Bobbink

0 replies on “Colour, colour and colour

  1. Color is an interesting and very much researched subject, specially in art and architecture, so we can learn from there. Indeed autumn colors of nature are something that brings us in special moods of tranquility and calmness, after exciting summer days and before long and dark winter season… Now back to the reality, about the question why some plants color red and other, including grass, not is because it is the pigment antocian and caroten that are responsible for reddish and orange tints, and so the plants that have those pigments color, other not. Indeed in the age of highly developed technology of genetic manipulation it would be possible to interfere, but do we really would like to have one more unnatural thing on the top of all we already have?

  2. Although ever since Darwin evolution theorists use a lot of logic to explain nature, your little neighbour’s eyes remind us, that nature is not always logical. There is the rational and the enchanting reality. I think your spiritual explanation of warm autumn colours is very beautiful. And to me too colours seam different some year – although i could admittedly I do not see the same tree every year these times.

    As I learned form biologist Bob Ursem at one of our courses (learning by teaching at TUD) there are two types of Chlorophyl in plants. The lighter one is “a” and it is less absorbing than the dark green ‘b”. Actually “b” is blue, mixed with the yellow of the “empty” leave. Seen from the darkness of the leave you can take a first guess whether it is a shadow plant that has to compensate with dark leaves or not. So Colour and Light come together in a 3 dimensional spatial composition.

    They are two different substances with on H2o less in their stochastic (Chlorophyll a C55H72O5N4Mg Chlorophyll b C55H70O6N4Mg according to According to that same source still is unclear exactly why plants have mostly evolved to be green. “The biologist John Berman has offered the opinion that evolution is not an engineering process.” (wikipedia quoting Berman, “Why did plants evolve green, not black?”. ) Something to remember when teaching Landscape Architecture at a Technical University.

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