This is the time of year when foliage takes over flowers for center stage in the landscape. Many people have commented that fall foliage in our neck of the woods is just as good as the more renowned northeastern foliage. No need to take a long road trip; a drive around town or out into the surrounding countryside will reward you with a bounty of reds, yellows, oranges, purples, and the various hues of green from different evergreens.
You may not have room in your yard for a towering oak, gingko, blackgum or other large tree. But there are other ways to bring color to your landscape for this time of year.
Blueberries do double duty for their summer bounty of delicious berries, and right now, their brightly colored foliage is extremely showy. Foliage color ranges from deep reddish orange to lighter shades. They are one of the perfect plants for an edible landscape, useful as large shrubs for spots with well-drained acidic soil and lots of sunshine. Plant at least 2 varieties to ensure good fruit set.
Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a native, deciduous shrub that spreads by underground runners to make a large patch. This shrub is perfect for low-lying areas that tend to stay moist where many other plants might struggle. When planted in full sun, you will be rewarded in the late spring with heavy bloom of long white sprays of flowers, and then in the fall, a mix of colorful foliage including yellow, orange, and a range of reds and purple. The variety ‘Henry’s Garnet’ is probably the most colorful of types available in the trade.
Fothergilla is a medium sized shrub native to the eastern United States with attractive white blooms on the ends of the branches in spring, with foliage that bursts into wonderful shades of orange and yellow in the fall. Requires acidic, well-drained soil and morning sun and shade from intense afternoon shade.
For small trees, think Japanese maples and crape myrtles. Both types have many cultivars to choose from that differ in mature size and fall leaf color, making it possible to find a variety that could fit your landscape.
You don’t often think of roses for fall color, but many roses, especially some of the old fashioned varieties, continue to bloom right up to the time of a very hard freeze. In the Heritage Rose Garden at the Tyler Rose Garden, I’ve been enjoying some of my favorites that are still in bloom, including ‘Old Blush’, ‘Clotilde Soupert’, ‘Penelope’, and ‘Perle d’ Ore’
If you don’t have room for shrubs, how about some colorful edible vegetables? Swiss chard and raddichio are vegetables that thrive during the cooler times of the year, again doing double duty as pleasing to the eye and palate. There are many lettuce varieties with attractive foliage, all fast and easy-to-grow.