Vibrant plants for Autumn Colour
Here in the Chilterns we are blessed with autumn colour once the predominantly beech woodland starts to change into its gold and bronze colour palette in late October and into November. However, in our natural landscape we don’t get the vibrant reds and oranges so prevalent in the ‘fall colors’ seen on the East Coast of the USA, which through film and TV, we’ve come to associate with the natural tints of autumn. However all is not lost, we can add those gorgeous russets, ruby reds and glowing burgundies to our gardens in autumn, with some easy to grow plant choices.
This is a wonderful plant for the autumn, with leaves turning all kinds of shades of red and orange from early October onwards. Plus the added bonus is spicy scent from the delicate flowers through the winter. We love to plant Hamamelis close to the house, so that the winter scent can be enjoyed without trailing too far away from the house.
Viburnums come in many shapes and sizes, so there will be a Viburnum that’s right for you. Many that flower with copious glorious white flowers in late spring have glorious burgundy foliage in the autumn. Check out Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ or Viburnum plicatum ‘Kilimanjaro’.
Acer palmatum or Japanese Maples are renowned for their glorious autumn colour, but many have gorgeous fresh leaf colour in spring that settles down to a mid green in summer. It’s worth doing your research to find the right one for you, as there are some with very delicate foliage and others with large palmate leaves, orange maples, red maples, green maples, and different sizes to suit every garden. They are slow growing and can take some shade, but the best colours come out in the sunshine.
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ or Eastern Redwood has glorious heart shaped foliage in a range of colours from green to gold to bright red and purple at this time of year, creating a delightful autumn show. We like to feature this small tree in gardens that are relatively sheltered as the leaves can blow off easily in strong winds. The added bonus with Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is a show of small pink flowers directly on the stems in spring.
Euonymus alatus ‘compactus’ – a medium sized shrub suitable for any garden, which whilst relatively anonymous for most of the year, becomes the star of the show in October when if given enough sunlight, the leaves turn from mid green to a bright crimson. Tiny orange berries are retained after the leaves have fallen.
These two Euonymus alatus shrubs are in a front garden on my street, and I enjoy them for weeks every autumn as I walk past.
This beautiful tree can grow quite large so may not be suitable long term for the smallest gardens. It is not showy, has no spring blossom or extravagant bark. Its quiet elegance is composed of layers of green heart shaped leaves with pinkish stems, which emerge coppery pink in the spring.
Autumn is its wow season, when the green of the chlorophyll is absorbed back into the stem, leaving the foliage a rich caramel gold colour, which can be even stronger red and orange shades on more acidic soils. Bronzed and glowing in the low autumn sun, these leaves have another trick up their sleeves as they crispen and fall – they give off a strong aroma of burnt sugar, which is the reason why this tree is sometimes called ‘The Candyfloss Tree’.
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