Autumn fires

Amelanchier arborea in autumn colour at entrance to property - © Tomek Ciesielski/GAP Photos

Amelanchier arborea in autumn colour at entrance to property – © Tomek Ciesielski/GAP Photos

As the temperatures cool in autumn, a transformation begins in your garden. The green chlorophyll in tree’s leaves begins to degrade, revealing hues of red, yellow, orange and purple otherwise not seen. Cold nights and still, warm days tend to bring out the best autumn leaf colours, so what plants will put on the best displays?

Smaller trees
Not many of us have room for a towering Nyssa sylvatica or Parrotia persica, so which compact tree and shrub species give spectacular leaf colour? Many smaller maple species, such as Acer palmatum and A. japonicum go out in a blaze in autumn. Snakebark maples such as A. capillipes and A. davidii share the same approach. Native field maples, A. campestre, turn golden yellow among the other hedgerow plants. The dramatic toothed leaves of the stag’s horn sumach, Rhus typhina, turn fiery red in November, along with the more delicate foliage of Amelanchier lamarckii. Cercis canadensis, and related Cercidiphyllum japonicum produce heart-shaped leaves which turn shades of purple and yellow before falling. The spindle tree, Euonymus europaeus, with its unusual winged branches, will transform into brilliant scarlet, as will the blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum. Ornamental and edible cherries develop beautiful dusky pink and orange hues, while the guelder rose, Viburnum opulus, turns orange-red. The subtle differences between these trees and shrubs allows you to create a tapestry of fire to warm visitors on brisk November days.