Fall Standouts


The leaves are starting to change color as I write this. Certain trees and shrubs are so spectacular this time of year that they are planted entirely for this reason. Burning Bushes are so fire-red that they grab your eyes by the optic nerve. I recommend a few plants that are not as commonly used in the landscape, but are certainly memorable for their unique, bright colors.

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glytostroboides) starts the season with beautiful, light green needles, which look almost tropical. This tree grows to 70' and half as wide. Many think of it as a western tree, but it does well in Maine when sheltered from winds and grown in rich soil. In the fall, it turns yellowish, then burnt-orange. At a quick glance you might think it is brown, but closer examination reveals the attractive orange hue.

American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) is a large bush growing to a rounded 10'. It prefers moist, rich soil. Sun to light shade suits it well. Hazelnut is a dense plant, very good for screening. Its best features are the edible nuts, which are ripe in October; and, the fall color is brilliant orange-bronze. Of all the plants in the field, this one stands out for its unique coloration.

Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) grows to a 50' by 30' very dense tree. Bark becomes shaggy with age. Katsura prefer moist, rich soil, but will compensate for dry conditions by dropping some leaves during the season. Leaves emerge reddish purple and mature to bluish green. In the fall they turn yellow to apricot with a tinge of red. This tree is another one of those you pass and just have to know what it is that is so strikingly beautiful in the fall.

Persian Parrotia (Parrotia persica) grows to a 25' by 20' small tree. The exfoliating, multi-colored bark is very attractive on older trees. Leaves emerge a reddish purple and turn a lustrous, dark green, reminiscent of evergreen holly. In the fall Parrotia turn purple and become bright scarlet. It is one of the most eye-catching reds of all.

Tupelo or Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) grows to a 60' by 30' tree. It fares best in rich soil on a site protected from the wind, but can survive in dry locations. Sun or light shade is fine. Leaves are a glossy green in the summer and turn deep red in the fall. Tupelo should be used more frequently by homeowners, but, like other worthy native trees, are not well-known.

Red Sunset Maple (Acer rubrum "Red Sunset) grows to a 50' by 40' specimen. Of all the red maples, this variety seems to turn slightly later and hold leaves longer. Red Sunset Maples are very red and true to color each fall. This cultivar is one of the best of the species.

Korean Mountain Ash (Sorbus alnifolia) grows to 40' tall by 20' wide. In clay soil or areas staying wet, mountain ash can develop serious borer problems. Full sun and well-drained soil is best. Leaves are glossy, dark green in summer, against which the white, May flowers show well. In the fall, leaves turn yellow to orange, and then deep red. Pinkish fruit stand out in bright contrast to the foliage.

Beach Plum (Prunus maritima) grow to an 8' rounded form. In early spring, the white flowers can cover the entire shrub. Beach Plum can do well near the coast, as well as inland in sandy to well-drained soil. Purple, edible fruit , which birds love, are ripe in August. In the fall, leaves on the same shrub can be yellow, gold, and peach.

When planning your garden, consider all seasons and place plants in a way to brighten your yard at all times. Fall colors can be spectacular. The above plants are consistent standouts and will have your neighbors stopping to ask what you planted. You won't have to travel to the mountains to view the best of fall.


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Poland Spring, Maine
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