From the Desk of Ed Hume: Fall Leaf Color

October 18, 2010 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

Want to add some bright color to the garden at this time of the year?  How about considering trees and shrubs that have beautiful autumn leaf color!  Of course, some plants have better leaf color than others, so let’s talk about a few of the best ones.

A few of my favorite trees are Dogwoods, Sweet gum, some Maples, and Sourwood.  Among my favorite shrubs are Heavenly bamboo, Witch hazel, Enkianthus, and winged Euonymus.  You might want to jot down a few names of some you see as the autumn color begins to appear on the various trees and shrubs.

Dogwoods (Cornus) – Both the native western dogwood and the many eastern varieties have showy autumn leaf color in shades of yellow, red, and pink.  The beauty of the native western dogwood is that it often flowers again in the Fall and has colorful red fruit.

Sweet Gum (Liquidambar) – Fall color varies a little by variety, but most have brilliant Fall color in shades of yellow, orange, and red to almost purple.

Maples (Acer) – Among the best ones is the native vine maple (A. circinatum) which has brilliant scarlet, yellow, and orange leaves in the autumn.  Several varieties of the Japanese maple (A. palmatum) and the sugar maple (A. saccharum), which is a large tree, has Fall leaves in shades of yellow to orange and red to scarlet.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum) – Late Summer and Fall flowers look a lot like lily-of-the-valley flowers and add interest along with the orange, scarlet, and almost purple Fall leaf color.

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina) – This evergreen shrub has beautiful Fall leaves that remain colorful all Winter in shades of red, bronze, and even purplish.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis) – Here’s a deciduous shrub that has nice Fall color plus fragrant Winter flowers.  Fall leaf color varies by variety often in combinations of orange, yellow, and/or scarlet.

Enkianthus – This is another “must have” plant in our garden.  The autumn leaf color is orange to brilliant scarlet.  Spring flowers are like little parachutes in shades of yellow to orange and are veined in red.  The small leaves are clustered toward the tops of the branches.

Winged Euonymus (E. alatus) – There are many varieties of Euonymus, but my favorite for Fall color is this one.  You may have seen this one in several different places in plantings along I-5.  The dwarf varieties are best for the home garden.   When grown in full sun, the Fall color is a brilliant scarlet.  In a shady spot the Fall leaves turn lighter to almost pink.

Keep in mind these are only a few of the fabulous plants that have colorful autumn leaf color.  A visit to local parks, botanical gardens, and arboretums will expose you to the beauty of many others, some of which you may like even more than the ones I have mentioned in this article.


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