The Unsung Heroes of my Fall Garden


Diane witch hazel takes on shades of pumpkin and eggplant in fall

Diane witch hazel takes on shades of pumpkin and eggplant in fall


We all have our favorite fall plants – the ones that we look forward to every year, anticipating the  colors and ever-changing combinations with their garden companions. Christina has already admitted that we are totally enamored with the world of Japanese maples and between us have quite the collection both in containers and the garden, including many that started life in containers and have since been transplanted to take pride of place as a landscape specimen.

But what other trees and shrubs offer standout performance at this time of year? Take a stroll through the garden with me and I’ll show you a few of my favorites.

Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)

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This is just a tiny cheat – it isn’t a Japanese maple after all! Take a look at these images and you’ll see why I love it so much in every season, not just fall.

Cinnamon colored peeling bark as well as foliage that opens light green, matures to a mid tone then transitions to shades of apricot and orange, the fall color lasting for many weeks.

USDA 4-8

American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

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This tree can be rather hit or miss. I have three of these in my current garden which vary enormously in fall color from yellow to burgundy but I have had one in the past which seemed to do nothing at all! Some gardeners don’t like the seed pods but I always plant them some distance from patios or paths so have never been bothered by them.

I like them because they are relatively inexpensive, have maple shaped leaves, grow quickly, tolerate seasonal standing water for short periods of time and aren’t bothered by the deer.

USDA 5-9

Exbury Azalea

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When we moved to this property five years ago we inherited many things in the garden that we could have done without (beer bottles, road fill, invasive weeds and worse) but we also discovered this mature Exbury azalea inside the vegetable garden of all places! It had survived there despite being in an area which flooded during winter months.

We moved it with the aid of a bobcat to a more suitable location and watered it regularly for the first year wondering if it would survive being transplanted. It did! Today it is a highlight both in my fall and spring garden.

Golden yellow flowers fill the garden with their exotic fragrance in May before the leaves appear. Green summer  foliage turns bronze then scarlet before finally falling to the ground mid-November

USDA 5-8

Ruby Vase Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica ‘Ruby Vase’)

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I purchased this tree on a whim in a sale! I needed a tree that was more upright rather than one which would have a rounded lollipop shape and of course I wanted it all; flowers, bark and great foliage. Well Ruby Vase delivers. Unlike the regular Persian ironwood this will eventually mature at 10-15′ wide and  30′ tall making it perfect for even small gardens. Highly recommended.

USDA 4-9

 A final eclectic mix

I could write (another) book on my favorites but I wanted to at least give you a glimpse of a few other plants that deserve a mention

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What are your favorite trees and shrubs for fall color?

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7 thoughts on “The Unsung Heroes of my Fall Garden

  1. Glenda

    Karen this is a little sideways from the subject but I want to start photographing my gardens what camera would you suggest for a beginner. I just use my ipad and iphone at the moment.

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