|Ebb tide on the Gironde near Meschers|
Winter evenings can often produce spectacular sunsets and even the mudflats become photogenic, dotted with grassy islets and silhouetted shore birds.
|A new carpet of ash leaves on the driveway|
I also find it's a useful warm-up task to get my arms and shoulders working before tackling more constrained jobs like weeding and planting that tend to give me neck ache.
|A good rake makes leaf-clearance a pleasure!|
We also have a useful rubber rake which takes care of leaves on the gravel driveway and in plant borders where you need a gentler action - and less sharp tines.
It's not until you're forced to try a new version of an old favourite that you realise how much a standard tool can be improved over the years, especially as they tend to be more lightweight and rust-proof these days.
|Red leaves of Cotinus coggygria (left) and|
Physocarpus opulifolius (right)
Wielding this new rake, I can clear our leaves in half the time and with much less effort than before, dumping as many as possible into a caged area to attract worms and become rich leaf-mould.
The remaining ash leaves, which are pretty small anyway, can be heaped up under trees and shrubs where they will rot down naturally over winter and provide a mulch to help alleviate some of the dryness.
|Cotinus coggygria or smoke bush is a must-have|
for its dramatic leaf colour, in spring and autumn
|Yellow field maple and|
|Liquidambar styraciflua or Sweet|
Gum tree - dressed to kill
Once she puts on her scarlet ballgown, this lady doesn't keep her foliage for long and you have to be quick to get photo's.
Even as a small tree, the shiny red leaves are eyecatching (see above) and resemble those of a maple in shape.
Its foliage changes colour dramatically from purple through to red, followed by a rich golden yellow - and then the leaves drop, rolling out a carpet every bit as luxuriant.
This is a tree which can grow up to 20 meters tall and originated in the eastern US.
There are now several named varieties, such as 'Worplesdon', as recommended by the RHS, and they will grow in any reasonably moist soil so long as it's lime-free.
The flowers are insignificant but it does produce globular, spiky autumn fruits which are left to decorate the bare branches once its leaves have disappeared.
|Female blackbird samples some ripe crabapples|
As it blossoms quite early in spring, the nectar also attracts bees and other insects which help to pollinate any regular apple trees you may have.
Wild crabapple, Malus sylvestris, is becoming rare in British hedgerows but it's well worth planting an ornamental variety in your garden.
|Malus floribunda or Ornamental Crabapple -|
beautifully tinted leaves and abundant fruit
|Clouded yellow butterfly|
Other butterflies still on the wing tend to be species like the red admiral which hibernate during winter.
|Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)|
We now have several varieties of ornamental sage which provide us with plenty of vibrant colour from early summer up to the first frosts.
One of the last to come into bloom is the exotic Salvia leucantha from Mexico with its long, furry flower spikes resembling purple caterpillars!
Although we mulch the plant with leaves, it can easily be killed in a hard frost so it's advisable to take cuttings and protect them over winter.
|Iberis sempervirens 'Snowflake'|
|Ornamental pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) holding onto their|
vivid colours until the temperatures plunge