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Springmoor Floral Focal Points: Trees and Shrubs for Fall Leaf Color

By Thom Morgan, Springmoor landscape manager 

Thom Morgan

After summer winds down, those of us living in the Northern Temperate Latitudes get treated to one last burst of color as leaves on trees begin to change. Daylight decreases from 15 hours to—eventually—10, causing leaves to compensate for the decrease in light; green chlorophyll fades as the other plant pigments stand out to produce red, orange and yellow. Finally, leaves drop due to what is called an abscission layer, which forms and allows leaves to break away.
Trees for fall leaf color:
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) comes in varieties such as October glory for red fall color, Red Sunset for orange-red fall color, and Autumn flame, primarily orange in color.
Lace-Leaf Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum dissectum) are great for fall color: For red, choose Crimson queen; for yellow, Viridis; for orange, Sangu Kaku. Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is great if you have space for a 75-foot tall, and 50-foot wide tree; sugar maples can produce yellow to orange fall color.
Dogwoods (Cornus)not only bloom in the spring, but have a large variety of leaf color in the fall. Count on dogwoods to retain some of their green summer foliage with red, orange and purple blotches.
Oaks (Quercus) need a lot of space—and time. They are worth a shot because they are fairly maintenance-free. Like its name, Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) turns a bright orange/red while Red Oak (Quercus borealis) turns red to red-purple, and White Oak  (Quercus alba) turns orange.
Shrubs for fall color:
Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) would have to be a first choice when planting for fall color. It appears to catch fire with bright red leaves in the fall. Be sure to get the dwarf (compacta) variety because they only grow 8-feet tall by 8-feet wide, while the common burning bush grows 15-feet by 15-feet.
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) turn purple and orange/red. I mentioned this shrub in the summer because it has large white flowers, and it’s a great shrub to brighten up a shady area of the garden.
Viburnum (Viburnum sp.) all flower in the spring, and three varieties produce nice fall color. Mrs. Shiller’s Delight (Viburnum obovatum) turns bronze/purple in the fall, Mariessi doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. Tomentosum ‘Mariessi’) (Hey, I don’t name these) has reddish-purple fall color, and Judd Viburnum (Viburnum juddi) also has reddish-purple fall color.
Springmoor’s November Floral Focal Points:
The Encore azaleas and Sasanqua camellias are at their peak, while the
Confederate rose and  Rose of Sharon have only a few flowers left.
November Landscaping To-Do List:
Prune non-flowering evergreen shrubs such as Photinia, Ligustrum,
Wax Myrtle and Junipers.
Apply lawn weed killer if you re-seeded a fescue lawn in September.
Add fallen leaves to your mulch pile.
Plant fall annuals and bulbs (window is closing shortly).
Plant large balled and burlap trees after the first frost—they are dormant, and the survival rate is very high this time of year.
Do not plant after mid-April.
Next Month: The New Wellness Center Landscape Plan, and Design Process
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