A GROWING CONCERN: Paint your fall garden in swaths of red, gold and orange

WE JUST FINISHED two 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 palmatun (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 varieties include “Burgundy lace,” very deeply cut; “Linearilobum” with long, slender leaves; “Garnet” with red-purple leaves all year, and “Red Rum” one of the taller varieties 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 co-mingle. Full moon maples have the same outstanding habit, leaf structure, summer color and fantastic fall color. Outstanding varieties are “Vitifolium” with shallow, lobed leaves and a finely-toothed, different shade of red in the same leaf, “Lazy florum” 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 redrum (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 year round scarlet leaves, and the very showy Acer ginnala “Amur maple” with 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 search,” 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 the fruit and get great fall color, too?

6. Acer pseudoplatanus (plantree or sycamore)

Back to maples, the sycamore is the tree of trees. It will get huge — 100-foot-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 acidic 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, barbary is perfect around here. Their wiry characteristics are perfect for seashore themes or garden interest. Colored leaves last all growing season, and barbaries 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,” “Darts red lady” or the yellow-leaf “Aurea.”

9. Euonymus alatus (Burning bush)

Plant them as a single specimen, 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 fortumei “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 a wonderful effect. Have you seen the big, big tassels of the pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) or the nice bronze reed 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 (Cerpresus) or even Leylandii “Salway gold” and “Robinson gold.” Yellow arborvitae such as Thuja plicata “Aurea” and “Stoneham Gold” are great. And finally, I think everyone should have a Weeping Alaskan Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis aurea pendula) or it’s brothers, golden (Tetragona Aurea) and miniature yellow “Nana Aurea.”

Plant these and more for a lifetime of fall color.

And most importantly, stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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] (subject line: Andrew May).

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