It is a wonder of Nature that, as plants prepare themselves for the
winter ahead, they produce some of the most spectacular, eye-popping
color of their life cycle.
If you are like Cheryl and me, you love to see the glorious colors. The
change seems gradual at first, then almost overnight, everything
between the ground and the sky is a flood of gold, red, crimson and
If you enjoy driving out to the countryside to take in the fall colors,
or if you look with envy upon your neighbors' colorful fall displays,
this could the perfect time to select some trees and shrubs that you
can plant now and enjoy for many autumn seasons in the future.
Today, I have a few colorful suggestions; trees that seem to come into
their own each fall, saying, "Hey guys! Look at me! I'm
Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis)
If you're looking for pistachio nuts, keep looking because you
won't find them on this tree, despite its name. However, you will
find a delightful tree whose color changes quite gradually, allowing
you truly to enjoy the different hues. It's a hardy tree, quite
tolerant of drought and soil conditions. We started growing some from
seed about 20 years ago and found them easy to grow; but I suggest you
look for them in gallon pots.
Cleveland Select Flowering Pear
In the spring, the Cleveland Select bursts out with snowy white blooms;
in fact more blooms than just about any flowering pear I can think of.
Then a few months later, the foliage changes from glossy green to
purplish red and orange. This makes a real delight for lovers of
colorful trees, and is ideal for yard or street planting.
China Snow Fringe Tree (Chionanthus retusus)
"Huh?" I hear you say. Yes, an unusual plant, but worth seeking
out, particularly if you like something that will probably be unique in
your neighborhood. This particular variety was developed by the
renowned horticulturist Don Shadow and is one of the most beautiful of
the small flowering trees in spring, summer AND fall. If you're
having trouble locating this rare find, drop me an e-mail at
email@example.com and I'll reply with some shopping information.
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
far wrong with a Sugar Maple. The majestic height and conical shape
provide the ideal canvas for a vast display of gold and orange every
fall. Be aware, though, that maples need some room to grow. This one
can reach 75 - 100 feet at maturity, so you need to be thinking
parkland or large lawns to provide the right scale.
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum)
For really vibrant colors, you can't beat Sourwood. When the
drooping white panicles of brilliant white flowers finally begin to
fade at the onset of autumn, you are treated to a foliage show that
runs the gamut from orange-red to brick red to flaming scarlet. This
one can be tricky to transplant successfully, so I recommend buying
container-grown plants rather than bare root. You'll get the best
results when you plant Sourwood in moist, acid, well-drained soil that
has quite a bit of organic content.
Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum)
With a name like this, it sounds more like a 19th century author than a
tree. However there are no literary connections. Growing to a
manageable height of around 25 to 35 feet, the Washington Hawthorn
tends to bloom a little later than many other trees, producing clusters
of white flowers in late spring and early summer, followed by red
berries that remain through the autumn as the foliage changes to an
attractive mix of orange and red.
Next time, I'll take a look at some shrubs that brighten up fall
landscapes with their brilliant colors.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit
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