Creating the Ambience of Autumn

Posted by admin in Autumn Garden

With autumn drawing near and the sweltering summer temperatures finally giving way to cooler nights, it seems almost bearable to work in your yard again. Indeed, fall’s onset brings not only light winds and breezy days, but it also begets the gorgeous tones of yellow, orange, and bronze as the leaves of surrounding shrubs and trees change color for the season. In some areas, crisp carpets of iridescent reds and oranges beautifully blanket the ground, as one by one, ‘swamp maple leaves elegantly fall from their branches above. Similarly, the rich green foliage of ‘Fashion’ azaleas turn to brilliant hues of red wine, while nearby hollies and Ardisia are enlivened with bright red berries. Whether you plan on hosting a wealth of football parties this year, or you simply wish to improve the lifeless colors in your landscape, spruce up your garden now with attractive shrubs and trees that are sure to excite all of your audiences.

Hydrangea quercifolia, or oakleaf hydrangea is a native deciduous shrub that can be found throughout much of the south along shady ravines or sandy streams. As long as you have an area that receives only half a day of direct sun and offers fertile well-drained soil, you are sure to be successful with this charming variety of hydrangea. Oakleaf hydrangeas average four feet in height, and as the name suggests, they have large oak-like leaves that span four to eight inches long and spread almost the same width across. The leaves sport prominent fuzzy buds and pubescent veins in the spring through the fall. With autumn’s arrival, the foliage is colored with the extravagant reddish-purple hues of the season; you won’t find colors this bold on any other hydrangea!

Along with the spectacular display of foliage color, the exposed winter bark is also eye-catching, since the exfoliating older branches leave behind a lighter cinnamon-hued under-bark. In the late spring, after new growth has emerged, clusters of creamy white flowers are borne that later turn a shade of pink and then ultimately brown. The brown dried flowers last for several months, and if clipped, might also add interest to dried arrangements in your home.

For a more compact shrub that provides outstanding fall and winter color, plant ‘Firepower’ nandina. These nandinas average three feet in height and perform best in full sunlight to partial shade. Small fine-textured leaves hang gracefully year-round atop slender stiff canes. Young leaves emerge bright green with slight tinges of crimson. Watch in the late fall and winter as the entire shrub becomes a mass of fiery red; clusters of bright red berries also add to the display throughout the winter.

‘Firepower’ nandinas bloom panicles of tiny white flowers in late April and May, just as the foliage turns back to its coppery green look. To keep these shrubs dense and compact, make sure to remove one-third of the tallest canes each year (preferably in the late winter). Remember that while other varieties of nandinas offer fall and winter color, ‘Firepower’ promises without a doubt the boldest cool-season hues.

Another excellent choice for an evergreen shrub that guarantees beautiful fall and winter color is the ‘Fashion’ azalea. Blooming salmon to orange-red flowers in the fall and the spring, this in itself puts ‘Fashion’ azaleas one step ahead of most other varieties. These Glenn Dale hybrids don’t merely stop at that though. On top of having a longer blooming season, ‘Fashions’ sport lavish dark green foliage year-round that turns a handsome reddish-bronze in the fall and winter.

These inimitable azaleas average four to five feet in height, and like most other varieties, they thrive in full sunlight and slightly acidic soil. For the most colorful effect, plant ‘Fashion’ azaleas in groups of three or more. Keep in mind also that in the winter, ‘Fashions’ look best when incorporated in landscapes with sweet olives, Indian hawthorns or ‘Formosa’ azaleas; the rich green of these surrounding evergreens magnificently offsets the bronzy purple hues of the ‘Fashion’ azaleas.

For some of the most outstanding autumn color in Louisiana, consider planting swamp red maples (Acer rubrum). Native to the southern United States, swamp maples, as the name implies, are commonly found in drier parts of the swamps, but also perform well in more upland conditions. Red maples average thirty-five to forty feet tall and have a moderately fast rate of growth. The silvery-gray bark of the branches and trunk are most pronounced in autumn when lime green leaves dramatically warm up to the fiery shades of scarlet, orange, and yellow. Three excellent cultivars that provide such exquisite color in the South are ‘Autumn Flame’, ‘October Glory’, and ‘Florida Flame’. After foliage has dropped in the winter, prominent bright red blossoms abundantly cover the once naked branches. Flowers persist through early spring and are accompanied by round pinkish-red fruit that delicately hang from the silvery branches until new foliage emerges in the spring.

Be creative with your garden this fall. No matter what you decide to plant, make sure to add a true sense of autumn by incorporating the radiant hues of yellow, orange, and crimson to light up your landscape for the entirety of winter.

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