Acers, maples and friends are burn­ing with colour right now... here’s Diarmuid’s top picks

Irish Daily Mirror - - IN THE GARDEN - DIARMUID GAVIN with

Last week on these pages we romped around the coun­try, stop­ping off at many won­der­ful na­tional trea­sures – gar­dens which make the most of chang­ing sea­sons and burst with au­tumn colour.

Many of these gar­dens were once pri­vate aris­to­cratic homes laid out at a time when they were the pri­vate plea­sure zones of the es­tab­lish­ment. In many cases the land­scapes are vast with plenty of room to grow the gor­geous spec­i­mens whose ma­tu­rity we can now en­joy.

How­ever, most of us have smaller plots, so how do we fully achieve the mag­nif­i­cence that au­tumn can bring, us­ing trees and shrubs which don’t re­quire the room that enor­mous es­tates al­low?

Here’s my top se­lec­tion of tried and trusted

au­tumn beau­ties, plants that I grow my­self, species whose beauty I can vouch for and which will suit the av­er­age do­mes­tic plot.

■ Acer ‘Aconi­ti­folium’ The full moon maple is one of the best Ja­panese maples for au­tumn colour, its ferny pal­mate leaves turn­ing vivid red and orange. For best re­sults grow in dap­pled or par­tial shade with pro­tec­tion from cold winds. Beau­ti­ful as a spec­i­men tree in a pa­tio or court­yard sit­u­a­tion. ■ Liq­uidambar (sweet­gum tree) This pro­duces some of the best au­tumn colours, a won­der­ful mix of plums, reds and orange maple-like leaves. How­ever, as they grow above 22m in ma­tu­rity they’re usu­ally un­suit­able for small to av­er­age plots. ‘Slen­der Sil­hou­ette’ is a lovely up­right cul­ti­var which, while it grows tall, re­mains slim­line. Sweet­gums pre­fer damp­ish, neu­tral to acidic soil. ■ Acer gri­seum (Paper­bark maple) I never tire of the won­der­ful cop­pery peel­ing of this maple. And there’s more rea­son to love it in au­tumn as its leaves turn to a burn­ing red and orange. A de­light­ful spec­i­men for any gar­den. ■ Cot­i­nus ‘Royal Pur­ple’ Grow the smoke bush for its beau­ti­ful pur­ple fo­liage that turns scar­let in au­tumn. The smokey part of its name de­rives from the frothy plumes of del­i­cate flow­ers in sum­mer that can ap­pear to be like a haze of smoke around the plant. It likes full sun in a moist, well-drained soil.

■ Rhus ty­phina I’m watch­ing the stag’s horn sumach in my front gar­den turn a vi­brant shade of orange. I think this is one of the most re­li­able au­tum­nal small trees. If you want some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, go for ‘Dis­secta’ which has finely dis­sected leaves, giv­ing a more re­fined ap­pear­ance. You will need to re­move suck­ers.

■ Euony­mus ala­tus Spin­dle trees are un­ri­valled when it comes to fiery au­tum­nal colour. This, along with beau­ti­ful pur­ple fruit that splits open to re­veal orange fruit, and its in­ter­est­ing tex­tured bark, makes it an out­stand­ing shrub.

■ Cor­nus kousa ‘Miss Satomi’ This plant is a good choice where you have room for a tree to spread lat­er­ally but you don’t want it to grow tall. The branches are out­stretched and leaves turn pur­ple and deep red in au­tumn.

■ Sor­bus ‘Joseph Rock’ Sor­bus, or moun­tain ash, is a great all-rounder for the small gar­den. Lots of creamy flow­ers in spring are fol­lowed by won­der­ful yel­low berries in late sum­mer, and in au­tumn the pin­nate fo­liage turns a deep crim­son.

Spin­dle trees are un­ri­valled for fiery, au­tum­nal colour

Sor­bus ‘Joseph Rock’

Acer gri­seum

Acer ‘Aconi­ti­folium’


Rhus ty­phina

Cot­i­nus ‘Royal Pur­ple’

Euony­mus ala­tus

Cor­nus kousa ‘Miss Satomi’

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