Exceptional Fall Colour from Unexpected Plants
When we say ‘fall colour,’ folks inevitably think about large, lovely deciduous trees like maples and oaks. Some may even call to mind a few well-known shrubs like ‘Burning Bush’ (euonymus a.), fothergilla g., or itea v., but there are many other plants that can create a stunning show in your garden this time of year.
Here are a few of our favourite ‘unsung heroes’ when it comes to fall foliage colour:
Blueberries really do check all the boxes: lovely white blooms in spring, delicious berries in summer, brilliant fall colour, and colourful stems in winter. If you have a sunny spot with good, well-drained soil, consider putting in one (ideally two or more for best production!).
- Fences and patio structures covered with Boston Ivy (parthenocissus t.) or Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus q.) put on a lovely show. Newer varieties of parthenocissus q. like Proven Winners’ ‘Red Wall’ and ‘Yellow Wall’ are particularly showy. Be cautious with vigorous self-clinging vines, though… over time; they can cause problems if attached to buildings, so guide them where they are free to grow.
- Celastrus s., also known as ‘American Bittersweet,’ produces pretty clusters of golden yellow ornamental berries which attract birds (they are poisonous to people and pets though, so do be careful!), but also has foliage that turns a lovely mellow-yellow colour in fall. Both a male and female are needed for pollination.
- Vitis vinifera purpurea, the ‘Purple Leaf Grape’ turns a dark purple-burgundy colour!
Roses that produce significant hips are quite attractive at this time of year, particularly those that have a pretty yellow fall foliage colour like rugosa roses.
Many gardens are home to PG hydrangeas (also lovely fall colour, by the way), mopheads, and lacecaps, but not too many have hydrangea quercifolia, which has a leaf-shaped somewhat like an oak leaf, giving it its name. The green foliage it displays all summer matures to a rich burgundy red in autumn. Along with their white blooms that mature to deep rose this time of year, it really is an amazing shrub! Oakleaf hydrangeas prefer part shade and well-drained soil.
- Hostas are a go-to for filling in our shade gardens, but before they die down for the season, they give us one final ‘hurrah’ by turning pretty shades of yellow.
- Bergenias’ waxy green foliage takes on red/burgundy tones when the days and nights start to cool, but a newer variety called ‘Winter Glow’ bears beautiful bronzey-red foliage throughout the fall and winter seasons. New foliage emerges green in the spring.
- We adore peonies for their durable nature, incredible fragrance, and romantic blooms, but don’t forget about their fall colour too! Several take on red, copper, bronze, or peach hues when the weather cools, and they blend beautifully with similarly toned grasses and sedums (if planted nearby).
- The brilliant blue flowers of Leadwort (ceratostigma) are quite striking against the maroon foliage it has in fall. Every year we take a picture of it because it’s such a unique combination! Growing to only 12” high, it’s particularly nice as an edging or border plant.