Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall Color - More than just red and yellow - By Genevieve Coombs, horticulturist

Fall is here! The trees changed practically overnight to their fall colors. In the autumn garden, there are several trees and shrubs that turn shades of deep burgundy and purple, adding a velvety accent to the landscape. Mixing these purple-foliaged shrubs in with those that turn yellow can create a dramatic display before the leaves drop.

The dwarf lilac ‘Miss Kim’ (Syringa chinensis) is a beautiful shrub in the late spring, covered with fragrant lavender flowers, beloved by bees, early hummingbirds, and butterflies. It then fades into the background during the summer, a dark green shrub, allowing perennials to shine. In autumn, however, the show rivals that of the spring bloom. The foliage turns a deep shade of purple to burgundy red, persisting well into October, providing a unique and emphasizing backdrop for fall blooming sedums and grasses.
Forsythia is another spring blooming shrub that is often overlooked in the fall. 

Bright yellow flowers give way to medium green leaves, which then turn shades of yellow or purple in the fall, depending on the variety. One of the best varieties for purple foliage is ‘Lynnwood Gold’, followed closely by ‘New Hampshire Gold’, and ‘Sunrise’. These varieties are also exceptionally hardy, ensuring beautiful blooms in spring, and always nice foliage through the rest of the year.

Not to be left out, evergreens often will change color in the fall as well. ‘PJM’ and other little-leaf Rhododendrons often turn purple to burgundy as the weather turns cool, and keep this color all through winter. 

Purple in the garden, especially in the fall, is a very dramatic color. Be careful not to use too much of it, but in the right spot, a spot of deep foliage will be just the thing to draw the eye to a corner of the landscape.

Genevieve Coombs is a horticulturist and manager at Roosevelt Trail Garden Center in Windham.

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