Sunday, November 22, 2015

Deciduous Delights

Sweetgum leaf
People often seek out evergreen trees and shrubs for their landscape. The reasons are varied: for privacy reasons, because they like to have something green all year or perhaps as shelter for birds. 

All those reasons are good, but this time of year is the perfect time to realize that deciduous trees and shrubs are the ones that wow us in the fall. We should definitely include some of them in the landscape.
A sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) provides a red highlight
For weeks and weeks in the fall, deciduous woody plants stop producing green chlorophyll in their leaves and reveal amazing colors. As you may have learned, the exact color that the leaves turn has to do with the chemicals within them. Carotenes and xanthophyll pigments give us yellow, orange and brown colors while anthocyanin pigments give us reds and purples. Some of them even go through several color phases before they fall.

Landscapes with multiple colors catch your eye
The ideal fall combination is composed of plants that have fall color in all the categories: yellow, orange, red, purple and russet-brown. Include a few evergreens as well to provide the contrast. At minimum, you’ll want yellow, red and green. Now that fall is almost done, you might have realized that you were lacking in certain colors. I have previous posts that list some of our native choices for those colors: yellow and orange/red/purple. You can find some evergreen ideas here.

In addition to trees, there are some native shrubs with outstanding fall color: Viburnum, Fothergilla, native spireas (Spiraea), blueberry (Vaccinium) and huckleberry (Gaylussacia), and oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Mix some of those in with your evergreen shrubs for a strong fall finish (plus they have great spring blooms).

Fothergilla, perhaps 'Mt. Airy'
Hydrangea quercifolia fall colors can be bright or muted as here

When the leaves are done falling, celebrate the free mulch and fertilizer that they provide while birds search for worms and tasty beetles beneath them. Deciduous woody plants are truly wonderful things to have in the landscape. If you didn’t have enough this year, I hope this post and the others linked here will give you some ideas for planting.

A deciduous forest offers so much to see

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