Autumn foliage brings out the poet in most of us. Who can resist the amazing colours that appear once the days start to wane and nighttime temperatures chill out. The magic happens as leaves stop synthesizing chlorophyll and start revealing all their glorious and extraordinary underlying colours. It is a new though elegiac moment in the garden.
But plants with blazing colours look inarticulate and uncomfortable when they are jammed into the garden willy-nilly. Autumn foliage should be in combinations that move gracefully from the deepest reds to the most intense golds. To get the best out of autumn colours, there are a few cautions to observe along the way.
This is a great time of year to buy plants so you can observe what the leaf colour will actually be like. When the tag says red, is it a red with blue over-tones or yellow? Will it go with the bricks of your house? Some reds look awful up against the ubiquitous red brick of Canadian architecture. You need gold colours, even neon tones to stand out against the more prosaic tones of the brick. But any house with wood details or possessing a neutral stone can take just about any bright colour combination.
It?s always a good idea to buy small plants, especially trees and shrubs, so they have time to acclimatize. But if you are thinking mainly of extraordinary autumn colours this should become a major rule.? You?ll be able to see them turn and then move them around avoiding any glaring clashes that offend your eye. Moving a great big tree because it doesn?t quite sit well with the thing next to it is folly. The great big tree is going to suffer. When they are small you can move them around as easily as big perennials.
Think about combining the tonal values the way you do when painting walls: bright orange lends itself to being next to a red with lots of yellow in it, or even better purple foliage. I like to mix in purple-black foliage plants with brighter deciduous trees and shrubs it not only leavens some of the eye popping quality, it usually improves the look by being such a contrast.? Ninebark (Physocarpus ?Diabolo?) with deep almost magenta purple leaves is a perfect foil for most larger trees and shrubs in just about every tonal value. The pure black of an elder called Sambucus ?Black Lace? will look superb with any of the plants listed here.
Look for good autumn leaf colour when you are buying woody plants this time of year, and make sure you have lots of plants and vines with berries to keep the birds coming back into your garden all winter long.
These are trees and shrubs for autumn which are absolutely guaranteed to dazzle.? Most flaming colours last less than two weeks but what a glorious show.