Fall has risen with a fury of fiery color, and if your own landscape is not ablaze with foliage in fire engine red, warm yellow or pumpkin orange, then this is the week to see what autumn treats you can add to the garden now.
When you visit the nursery to add these trees and shrubs to the landscape, remember to pick up some late blooming perennials such as purple and blue asters, russet sedum ’Autumn Joy’, shade tolerant and tall Japanese anemone and mums, flowering kale and cabbage and winter pansies. Use these autumn bloomers to decorate the porch for trick or treaters by hollowing out a pumpkin and dropping the plastic nursery pot inside. Now you’ll have a blooming pumpkin and a great fall plant to add to the landscape when the holiday is over.
Here’s the best plants for fall color in our unique, Western Washington climate:
1. BURNING BUSH (EUONYMUS ALATUS COMPACTA)
This fiery red shrub is sensational enough to write home about. But wait - nobody writes home anymore so it is sensational enough to snap a photo of with your I-phone, droid or Blackberry and then e-mail to the folks back home. Put in a hedge of burning bush this fall and you’ll have brilliant scarlet color every autumn. Just be careful that the neighbors know it is a shrub turning hot red in color, not a fire. One fall the local fire department was called when a neighbor thought red flames were erupting from the house across the pasture. It wasn’t a fire, it was a row of burning bush. True story.
2. JAPANESE MAPLE
The best-behaved tree or shrub you can add to a landscape, Japanese maples have great figures, small leaves and don’t overgrow or overpower a landscape the way traditional maples can. The favorite for small yards is the ‘Bloodgood’ or Acer palmatum var. atropurpurea ‘Bloodgood’ but if you choose a Japanese maple that is grafted you’ll have a shrub rather than a tall, narrow tree. The variety ‘Waterfall’ has cascading green leaves and brilliant yellow fall color, but for brilliant red leaves in the fall choose the Acer palmatum ‘Wolff.’
This is the time to check out the many varieties of Japanese maples at the nursery as you can see the fall colors as the foliage changes and most nurseries put there trees and shrubs on sale this month. Great beauty at a bargain price.
3. BIG MAPLES: RED MAPLES (ACER RUBRUM)
If you are admiring the brilliant colors of maples used as street trees in the area than chances are the trees with early fall color are ‘Red Sunset’ Maples and the trees just turning red late in the season are ‘October Glory’ red maple. In warmer climates, the ‘Autumn Blaze’ maple is preferred.
The red maples make fast growing shade trees but give them plenty of room — they can grow 40 feet wide and as tall.
4. GOLDEN GINKGO (GINKGO BILOBA ‘AUTUMN GOLD’ )
An unusual tree for our area but one that been around since the dinosaurs as it survives poor soil, cold, wind, insects and disease. The leaves are fan shaped, like a duck’s foot, and so this tree is also called maidenhair tree but the real reason to grow Ginkgo is the golden yellow foliage every fall. Slow growing tree with upright branching form.
5. BARBERRY ‘LIME GLOW’ (BERBERIS THUNBERGII ‘LIME GLOW’ )
There are plenty of red, burgundy and green shrubs in the fall garden, so add yellow when you get a chance. This barberry has brilliant yellow leaves in the spring and then in the fall exceptional red foliage and red berries. There are plenty of other barberries to choose from for fall color, so get to the nursery to get stuck on prickly barberries. There is a reason barberries are used in parking lots, school yards and commercial landscapes. These colorful shrubs thrive in poor soil and resist drought, deer, insects and disease. They do grow fast and big so choose a dwarf variety unless you have plenty of room.
Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her website at www.binettigarden.com.