Au­tumn colour

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents -

It’s de­cid­u­ous trees that truly ex­plode with vi­brant colour in our au­tumn gardens but to see them at their elec­tri­fy­ing best will de­pend on the weather. For the best au­tumn fo­liage, trees and shrubs need a wet spring and sum­mer fol­lowed by cool but dry and sunny au­tumn days. Drought dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son and an au­tum­nal hard frost will make the leaves drop early.

Pos­si­bly the most spec­tac­u­lar au­tumn trees are Ja­panese maples, which turn a beau­ti­ful crim­son be­fore drop­ping to pro­duce a soft, vividly coloured car­pet. They are slow grow­ing, so are a good choice for a small gar­den, pro­vided it is not blasted by cold north and east winds or so low-ly­ing that frost lingers. To thrive, they also need well-drain­ing acid soil. Dap­pled sun­light is best for the yel­lowleaved va­ri­eties such as Acer pal­ma­tum ‘Sango-kaku’, which scorch eas­ily, and pur­ple-leaved va­ri­eties, such as ‘Blood­good’, pro­duce the best au­tumn dis­plays when grow­ing in sun­shine.

A survivor from the di­nosaur age, Ginkgo biloba is as tough as old boots and can even last for years grow­ing in a pot on the pa­tio. This small tree has an at­trac­tive shapely con­i­cal out­line and un­usual fan-shaped leaves, which re­sem­ble those of a maid­en­hair fern, which start out green and fade to gold as the sum­mer draws to a close. It’s one of the last trees to lose its leaves, too. It’s drought-tol­er­ant once es­tab­lished and will survive tough conditions in­clud­ing pol­lu­tion and salt spray, so is a good choice for gardens in ur­ban ar­eas.

Witch-hazels are a must-have for any gar­den. Not only are they clothed in long-last­ing, spicy-scented yel­low flow­ers in the depths of win­ter, but their shroud of dark green sum­mer leaves turn vivid shades of or­ange or yel­low be­fore fall­ing in au­tumn. For a small gar­den look for Ha­mamelis × in­ter­me­dia ‘Arnold Prom­ise’ – it even­tu­ally be­comes a vase-shaped shrub but can be grown for many years in a con­tainer.

The dog­wood, Cor­nus san­guinea ‘Mid­win­ter Fire’, will re­li­ably set bor­ders ablaze with its golden leaves in au­tumn and when the weather drops be­low freez­ing it will re­veal an up­right clump re­sem­bling a bon­fire of rich or­ange, red and yel­low stems.

Hy­drangea quer­ci­fo­lia is an­other dra­matic shrub. It pro­duces enor­mous sin­gle or dou­ble white blooms which last for most of the sum­mer and be­come tinged with pink as they age, above large oak-leaf-shaped leaves that turn bril­liant red, or­ange, yel­low and bur­gundy in au­tumn. When naked, the stems re­veal ex­fo­li­at­ing bark

for win­ter in­ter­est, mak­ing it a choice plant for all sea­sons. Grow it in a shel­tered spot shaded from the hot af­ter­noon sun and mulch to keep the roots moist. As with all hy­drangeas, it’s best to leave the spent blooms on the plants to pro­tect the de­vel­op­ing buds dur­ing se­vere win­ter weather.

If you have a large lawn, you could con­sider mak­ing a fea­ture of a stag’s horn sumach and en­joy its bril­liant show when the lance-shaped green leaves turn shades of bril­liant or­ange, red, yel­low and pur­ple. Stand­ing naked, the shrub then re­veals its pic­turesque branches, which have vel­vety red shoots which re­sem­ble the antlers of a stag. Look for the va­ri­ety

‘Lacini­ata’, which is less vig­or­ous and pro­duces fewer suck­ers than straight Rhus ty­phina, which tends to send up a new shoot ev­ery time a root gets dam­aged. It is per­fect for a prairi­estyle plant­ing scheme, part­nered with or­na­men­tal grasses and peren­ni­als.

Where lawn space is re­stricted, snowy mespilus is a good al­ter­na­tive. An­other shrubby tree, it is great value pro­vid­ing clouds of white starry blooms in spring, usu­ally emerg­ing on bare branches and fin­ish­ing just as the cop­pery­bronze young leaves un­furl. By June the ed­i­ble cur­rant-like red­dish-pur­ple fruits be­gin to ripen and if the birds don’t take them all, they will last un­til the tree be­comes a beacon of vivid or­anges and deep reds.

To cover walls with a cloak of au­tumn colour, look no fur­ther than Vir­ginia creeper, which turns bril­liant scar­let when the tem­per­a­ture drops. This self-cling­ing climber holds on by ad­he­sive pads and won’t dam­age build­ings un­less the ma­sonry is loose or the shoots are al­lowed to get into gut­ters.

The crim­son glory vine, Vi­tis coigne­tiae is an­other a high-flyer and per­fect for scrambling over a sturdy per­gola or gar­den wall. The large, heart-shaped leaves, which have a coarse tex­ture and are deeply veined, turn bright red and cre­ate a colour­ful back­drop for the small, un­palat­able blue-black grapes. Plant­ing it in well-drained poor soil will help stop ram­pant growth.

These colour­ful plants will add au­tum­nal vi­brancy to a gar­den


Ginkgo biloba Stag’s horn

sumach Ja­panese


Vi­tis coigne­tiae Cor­nus san­guinea

ÔMid­win­ter Fire’

Hy­drangea quer­ci­fo­lia

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