Let those autumn colours set your garden ablaze with reds and gold.
Long periods of mild autumn weather, which Britain is experiencing increasingly, brings out the best in trees noted for their colourful foliage.
So, if you are thinking of planting a new tree or shrub, take those autumn tints into account and start choosing now.
Autumn leaf colour depends on type of soil, good drainage and aspect as well as spells of fine weather. But the choice of species is paramount.
Don't be tempted to plant a tree which will grow too large. In most gardens, small is definitely beautiful. Maples, oaks and even some kinds of rowan would soon throw heavy overhead shadow and might cause underground damage.
To satisfy the gardener without swamping his or her garden, there are many trees and shrubs which show excellent autumn colour - of leaves, berries or both.
Seek out autumn stunners suitable for small gardens, as long as they can be planted in reasonably sunny positions.
Here are some choice candidates...
The smoke tree, Cotinus coggygria, is an 8ft shrub which bears plumes of flowers looking from a distance like puffs of pink smoke, then the leaves take on red and copper shades in autumn.
The most fiery of all the Japanese maples, Acer palmatum `Osakazuki', is quite small but its foliage is positively exhibitionist - feathery green leaves turning through orange to a fierce scarlet. It also has red flowers in spring and attractive winged seeds in summer.
The vast maple family provides other colourful characters suitable for the garden, including two Acer palmatum varieties - `Dissectum' with bright bronze-orange foliage and `Atropurpureum' with finely-cut, wine-red leaves.
Rhus typhina, the well-known stag's horn sumach, is a reliable shrub for almost any type of ground, including thin soils, with large oval leaves turning deep crimson. But it can invade a lawn or other beds with spreading roots and new shoots growing some distance from the parent plant. And it can grow 6m (20ft) tall in fertile soil.
A lovely species of dogwood, Cornus kousa, is of similar size. After its magnificent white flower-bracts have been displayed, the elegant green leaves become a mass of orange-red.
One of the longest autumn displays is provided by Cotoneaster divaricatus. As a specimen it becomes a medium-sized shrub but it is also excellent for hedging. Either way, the dark red berries and blood-red leaves give a six-week display in mid to late autumn.
Some viburnums, too, are worth considering. Viburnum lantanoides in particular has large, rich red leaves. Viburnum plicatum is better known for its white flowers in spring and summer but can have good autumn leaf colour if grown in dry soil.
Of course, some gardeners have no choice but to cultivate dry ground. They should welcome the barberries, which will tolerate thin, quick-draining soil and include several kinds to look good in autumn.
The species Berberis thunbergii, which grows slowly to about 90cm (3ft), has given rise to interesting foliage varieties. Among them, the form atropurpurea has purple leaves becoming orange in autumn; `Nana' changes similarly with the bonus of orange fruit; `Aurea' has golden leaves turning to vivid orange; and `Red Chief' has purple leaves taking on orange hues in autumn.
Silver birch trees also tolerate dry ground, where they grow more slowly than usual, making some kinds suitable for gardens. One of the most attractive is the cut-leaved birch, Betula pendula dalecarlica, whose ferny leaves turn golden yellow.
Hydrangeas are not normally associated with autumn displays but one, the oak leaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, is worth considering. It grows slowly to 1.8m (5ft-6ft), producing white blooms in summer which turn pink in autumn, as the leaves are changing from green to bright orange-red.
Finally, one of the most reliable of distinguished large shrubs - the shadbush, Amelanchier canadensis. As its name suggest, it came originally from Canada so shrugs off any winter temperature Britain is likely to inflict. It also grows in any soil, whether highly acid or alkaline, needs no pruning but can be cut right back if necessary, and prefers sun but does not mind shade.
And, after showing off its pleasant white spring flowers, it clothes itself in dazzling orange-russet leaves for autumn.
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|Publication:||The Journal (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Aug 23, 2003|
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