Color Your Fall Garden
Summer's end doesn't have to mean the end of color in your garden.
Colorful fothergilla takes center stage in this fall garden with variegated red twig dogwood and euonymus.
Fiery reds, burnt oranges and brilliant yellows evoke regional images of fall. The New England states are famous for the intense oranges and reds produced by the native maples, while brilliant yellow defines aspen groves enveloped within the dark-green conifer forest of the Rocky Mountain West.
I don’t live in either of those regions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate fantastic fall color. I have found that even in Kansas, with a few well-selected plants, the garden can positively glow.
When considering plants with fine fall foliage, oaks, maples and burning bush quickly come to mind, but there are many less common species that gardeners often overlook. If you are interested in coloring your late season landscape, consider one or more of these selections.
A number of different serviceberry varieties provide great choices for landscape use. Some of these will fit into the shrub category, and others are considered small trees. The berries produced by these plants are delicious, and so is the fall coloring. Gold, orange and red all describe the hues this time of year. My favorite tree selection is ‘Autumn Brilliance’ (Amelanchier x grandiflora), which will grow to a height of 20 feet. This tree can be grown as a single-stem specimen with the help of occasional pruning since it periodically sends up sucker sprouts from the base. It can be grown in the USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9.
About the same size, American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus) features fall coloring similar to the serviceberry. The American smoketree has the smokelike plumes of flowers for which other, more easily recognized smoke-trees are known. This plant is extremely underused because its purple-foliaged cousins get better press. But this is a terrific, slower-growing small tree for Zones 4-8.
The Persian parrotia (Parrotia persica) is a medium-size landscape tree that will add interest not only in the fall but all season long. Parrotia will grow to 35 feet tall with a rounded habit. This tree’s new foliage emerges purple, turns to dark green during the summer and then develops scarlet-orange hues in the fall. It is not the easiest plant to find in nurseries, but if you garden in Zones 4-8 and can find one, give it a try.
Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) is a large tree (up to 50 feet tall) with a narrow pyramidal shape that provides stunning fall color. A solid, brilliant red can be expected from this plant each fall. Black gum is somewhat difficult to transplant because it has only a few large roots that tend to go straight down, but after the tree is established, it grows well in both wet and dry conditions. Black gum will grow in Zones 3-9.
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