Now that autumn is upon us, leaves, shrubs and climbers grab our attention with their change of colours, transforming to scarlets, reds and golds. So why not include some in your garden?
By Pippa Greenwood
Climbing plants with spectacular autumn colours include Parthenocissus quinquefolia, or Virginia creeper, a sizeable climber that can be used to clothe walls without a support system. In autumn the leaves are numerous shades of scarlet, orange and red.
For less extensive covering, consider Parthenocissus henryana. Its divided leaves are a dark green to bronzy colour with pretty silvery-white veins that turn to rich red in autumn.
Another autumn climber, Vitis coignetiae, grows rapidly and has huge heart-shaped leaves with splendid scarlet and crimson colours come the autumn. It can be grown through large trees and over sturdier supports, and the colours often improve in poor soil!
Amelanchier lamarckii (snowy mespilus or serviceberry) is a large shrub covered with lovely whitish blossom in spring. The emerging leaves change from a coppery colour to bright green, but in autumn the entire shrub almost appears to be on fire.
The small-scale blueberry is an acid-loving, boggy-soil-needing plant that turns into a miniature ball of fire once it takes on its autumn colour, and two or more plants will provide a crop of delicious fruit.
Fothergilla major or Witch Alder is a smallish to medium-sized shrub whose bare stems will be covered with scented creamy-white spiky flower clusters early in the year. The foliage changes from pale green to shades of yellow and orange in the autumn. It needs a lime-free or acidic soil and does not do so well in a tub.
Cotinus or smoke bush also has fantastic autumn colours and is a shrub with attractively rounded leaves in shades of green, pinkish-orange or purple. The fluffy seed heads look just like little clouds or plumes of smoke.
For smaller gardens, it’s hard to beat one of the Japanese maples with their stunning divided leaves turning rich purples, reds, oranges and yellows, depending on which one you have planted. They do well in large tubs and are perfect for a sheltered back yard or patio, and look great in a bed or border.
Making the Best of Autumn Colour Potential
- To help choose plants for autumn colour, why not visit local garden centres or an arboretum? If possible, buy autumn colour plants now so you can see the precise shades that the various plants have to offer.
- Check the ultimate height and spread of trees or shrubs you’re considering – there’s no use planting something that will outgrow its space in a couple of years’ time.
- Planting at this time of year works well but wait for better conditions if your garden soil is very wet. In dry soil plants still need watering well, and the soil around the roots must be kept moist once the plants are in the ground.