A GROWING CONCERN: Go full-on fall foliage with these trees, bushes, grasses

The next eight weeks are the best time to plant shrubs and trees for either year-round or autumn glory.

WE JUST FINISHED three weeks of discussing the “right plant for the right spot.”

The next eight weeks are the best time to plant shrubs and trees.

The rain, temperature and natural dormancy of trees ideally align in October and November.

Our climate is perfect, and our elevation makes for optimum conditions for deciduous material.

The Peninsula has an abundance of yellows, so here is my list of 13 great trees, shrubs and bushes to plant for a New England-style autumn – in mostly reds and oranges:

1. Acer palmatum (Japanese maple).

These are the perfect bushes at 5 to 20 feet high and just as wide.

Japanese maples have an interesting growth habit and serrated, heavily lobed leaves that have wonderful color.

Do one thing to improve your yard: Plant a Japanese maple in plain sight.

Noted verities include “Burgundy Lace” very deeply cut; “Linearilobum” with long, slender leaves; “Garnet” with red-purple leaves all year; and “Rubrum,” one of the taller verities with year-round leaves.

2. Acer japonicum (full moon maple).

Full moon maple leaves are larger than Japanese, they have more lobes and are “toothed.”

They are also larger than Japanese maples, so they are a must to commingle.

Full moon maples have the same outstanding habit, leaf structure, summer color and fantastic fall color.

Outstanding verities are “Vitifolium,” with shallow, lobed leaves and a finely toothed different shade of red in the same leaf; “Laziflorum,” which is a rounded plant with arching branches and streaked bark; “Aconitifolium,” deeply lobed free-flowering; and “Aureum,” with yellow leaves turning bright red in fall.

3. Acer maple.

When talking about great fall foliage, we must point out a few maples.

Maples are unsurpassed for breathtaking reds, yellows and oranges.

Include a large maple along with the Japanese and full moon maples to plant in your yard.

Acer rubrum (red maple) “October Glory” is noted for its color. Other varieties are “Autumn Flame,” “Embers and “Schlesinger.”

Other great maples are Acer platanoides “Crimson King,” which has a year-round scarlet leaf, and the very showy Acer ginnala (amur maple) with its deep-lobed leaves and slender branches.

4. Sorbus mountain ash.

A genus of about 100 species, mountain ash are perfect trees.

Their berries feed winter birds and are very ornamental.

They flower nicely in spring, provide filtered light with their small leaves and dazzle with fall color as their leaves slowly change.

Noted varieties are “Americana,” a good native species with a nice berry; Sorbus reducta, which is a nice thicket-forming plant with good red-purple color; Sorbus sargentiana, a broad upright tree that yields orange-red fall color; and the handsome Sorbus scalaris, which has a nice flower, big red fruit and wonderful late fall color.

5. Prunus cherry.

With more than 200 species, cherry is a great choice. Not only do the prunus have attractive glossy leaves, but are also beautiful fall trees and can even provide edible fruit.

Finally, cherries are great spring trees as they cover themselves in showy blooms.

For non-fruit-producing types, try “Kanzan,” “Sargentii” or “Hokusai.” With noted brilliant orange-red fall color, “Mount Fuji,” “Okame” or “Spire” are a few to look into.

Prunus cerasifera Nigra sports deep-purple leaves all summer long.

You should go to your local nursery and get one of the fruit-producing cherries.

Why not eat and get great fall color, too?

6. Acer pseudoplatanus (planetree or sycamore).

Back to maples, the sycamore is the tree of trees.

It will get huge — 100 feet-plus and 80 feet wide — with mottled bark and the reds of the sycamore making fall worthwhile.

7. Quercus (oaks).

Oaks are huge trees with a winter interest because of their eerie branches and very nice late-fall reds and burgundies.

Oaks have very nice growth rates here, so try one for a majestic sentinel.

Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak) is very beautiful, as is the dark-red “Splendens” and quercus alba (white oak), which likes acid soils (which we have) and has a nice purple-red fall color.

Quercus phellos (willow leaf oak) is a good novelty tree.

8. Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry).

As a low shrub, barberry is perfect around here. Their wiry characteristics are perfect for seashore themes or garden interest.

Colored leaves last all growing season, and barberries then have brighter red leaves during the fall.

Try the adorable edged “Golden Ring,” the variegated “Rose Glow,” the very nice super dwarf “Crimson Pygmy” or “Darts Red Lady,” or the yellow-leaved Aurea.

9. Euonymus alatus (burning bush).

Plant them as single specimens but don’t cut back, thus enjoying the winged nature of mature branches in winter.

Also nice is euonymus europaeus “Red Castle” or the yellow evergreen euonymus fortunei “Emerald Gold.”

10. Oxydendrum arboreum (sourwood or sorrel tree).

Sourwood is a lovely conical to columnar tree that not only has a brilliant yellow to red-purple fall display but also puts on a very nice late summer bloom of white flowers.

11. Nyssa sylvatica (black gum, tupelo, sour gum).

A broad conical tree with drooping lower branches, leaves turn a vivid orange or red in the fall. A handsome tree with dark glossy green leaves 6 inches long.

12. Grasses.

Plant some fall grasses for wonderful effect.

Have you seen the big big tassels of the pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) or the nice bronze-red of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax var) “Aurora,” “Dazzler” or “Tom Thumb”?

Try the nice reds of Japanese blood grass or nice yellows of Acorus “Sweet Flag.”

13. Colored evergreens.

Fall can be enhanced with the nice textures of yellow evergreens that also provide year-round enjoyment.

Everyone should get the oriental spruce “Skylands” (Picea orientalis), the yellow-tipped cypress (cupressus) or even Leylandii “Salway Gold” and “Robinson Gold.”

Yellow arborvitae such as Thuja plicata “Aurea” and “Stoneham Gold” are great.

And finally, I think every one should have a weeping Alaskan cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis aurea pendula or its brothers golden “Tetragona Aurea” and miniature yellow “Nana Aurea.”

Plant these and many more for a lifetime of fall color.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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