A childhood spent near Boston has given me a penchant for the sugar maple, acer saccharum, and an ache at this time of year to see similar autumn brilliance in Scotland. The wild cherries, sorbus and beeches here try their best, but the colours and the scale just aren’t the same. Our tiny garden could never cope with acer saccharum, but for me the Japanese acers are out of the question. Compared to the 70 foot maples near my old home, they are pitiable, overengineered miniatures — as far from my ideal as a poodle from a wolf. The best way I’ve found to get those fiery New England oranges and non-stop reds is with the Virginia creeper, parthenocissus quinquefolia. Don’t expect this self-clinging climber to get its adhesive pads really working until it’s been around for a few years: it needs initial support such as vine eyes and wires. Now that mine’s got its head into the sun, it’s taking off more vigorously and should give good coverage over the high stone wall by my office. I like its papery leaves better than the leathery shine of parthenocissus tricuspidata, and this year, at least, its colours weren’t a flash in the pan: they held on for a good 3 to 4 weeks from early September, before dropping all at once. If it can keep that up, I’ll continue to count the other 49 weeks as time well spent.