None of us can fail to be impressed by the vibrant colours of autumn leaves. If we want to choose trees for the garden to brighten the fall months…. what trees should I choose?
Acer / Maple Tree
Acer is a group of trees or shrubs commonly known as Maple. Most are deciduous and most of those provide spectacular autumn foliage. With over 100 species to choose from, there are plenty to provide autumn colour in a garden, even in a small urban garden.
With delicately shaped leaves, Acers are easily transplanted and do best in slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Choose a sheltered spot, water in times of drought and your tree will cost you very little effort and reward you with a fiery display of autumn colour.
The Japanese Maple Acer Japonicum and also Acer Palmatum are perfect for any size garden, because they have cultivars which come in various colours and sizes. This makes an Acer a perfect choice of tree for small gardens.
Euonymus Alatus Tree / Burning Bush
The ‘Burning Bush’ is native to Asia and from a large group of shrubs and small trees called Euonymous. Euonymus Alatus provides a crimson splash of colour in autumn which is dazzling!
It is tolerant and hardy and will need little attention, though some fertiliser in early Spring will help ensure you are treated to a wonderful display of autumn colour. The open shape of this small tree is integral to its charm, so prune in early Spring only if you think it necessary to control its spread and take care to avoid spoiling the character and aesthetics of this plant.
Hamamelis / Witch Hazel
A shrub / small tree native to the Americas, this plant provides colourful leaves and flowers in autumn. The flowers often out-lasting the leaves and provide colour and interest well into early winter. Most Hamamelis have yellow leaves and curiously shaped yellowish flowers. Hamamelis Jelena is a popular cultivar with yellow leaves and copper-yellow flowers but if you prefer bolder colours, cultivar Hamamelis ‘Diane’ produces wonderful orange/red flowers.
Plant Hamamelis in a sunny spot and avoid an exposed, windy position. They like an open, free-draining soil and will need extra water in times of drought at any time of the year, even winter. They are hardy plants when established, but may need frost protection when newly planted.
Cercis Canadensis / Redbud
This is a species of small tree which produces golden yellow foliage in autumn and, sometimes, rich dark-brown seedpods over winter. There is a cultivar which produces red leaves in autumn called Cercis Canadensis ‘Purple Leaf’.
Although usually grown for its striking autumn foliage, an added delight is the spring flowers, followed by heart-shaped leaves throughout summer. This is a tree with all-year-round appeal!
Cercis Canadensis is hardy and easy to grow in well-drained soil when positioned in a sunny spot. It is not easy to transplant when mature, so best to start with a young plant in its permanent location.
Fagus Sylvatica / Common Beech Tree
Perfect for large gardens, and small gardens too!
Beech trees are tolerant of most growing conditions throughout the UK, though best grown in well-drained soil, in sun or part shade. They produce vibrant autumn leaf colours: orange, amber, gold, copper, yellow. At their best, when the autumn sunlight is bright and intense, they are nothing short of stunning!
Left to their own devices, Beech trees grow very tall. If you have space in your garden, a beech tree will bring you year after year of ever-increasing autumn foliage. However, with judicious pruning, the growth of a Beech tree (or Beech hedging) can be restricted to suit a smaller garden and, when its growth is restricted, Beech trees often retain their golden leaves through most of the winter months.
And finally, some Words of Wisdom…..
Choosing the right tree for your needs, for your ground conditions, and for your climate requires a big investment, financially and of time. Mistakes cannot easily be rectified! Consider consulting a tree surgeon for expert advice – it could be a small fee well-spent.