The dog days of summer are now long behind us, days are shorter, and temperatures are much more comfortable. And now it’s the time of year, the fall, that is the most ideal for planting. Vegetation prepares for winter by going dormant to conserve energy for the long, cold temperatures. This reduced growth activity is precisely what helps their transplantation with little or no stress to the plant itself. When making your new choices, take advantage of the array of vibrant colors that autumn offers. The following are my three fall favorites which capture both bold leaf and berry colors:
Itea virginica (Latin) is a fall stunner with deep-red, burgundy hues as the end of September approaches. It should be planted in full sun- partial shade with a minimum of 6 hours of sun to achieve the beautiful fall color it’s known for. ‘Merlot’ is a perfect cultivar choice for the residential landscape as it only grows to a 4’ height and width. Sweetspire is tolerant of wet soils but does prefer well-drained sites. Once established, it develops a tolerance to drought and requires minimal maintenance.
Fothergilla gardenia (Latin) shows off vibrant, fiery colors of purple, yellow, red, and, most notably, orange. Native to the coastal plains of the southeastern United States, this species also adapts well to the Delaware Valley climate. Fothergilla prefers full sun- partial shade, and well-drained moist soils. Many smaller varieties only grow 2-3’ in height, making them perfect shrub borders in a sunny woodland setting. They also produce white bottle-brush-like flowers in the early spring providing another season of interest.
Hydrangea Quercifolia (Latin) possesses the largest leaves in the Hydrangea family and resembles those of an Oak tree (hence the name). They show brilliant red, orange, yellow, and burgundy shades as the fall sets in. Oakleaf can also tolerate more sun and lack of water than the other, more familiar species of Hydrangea. This shrub is another U.S. native that prefers well-drained soils and partial sun- shade. Some varieties can grow quite large (6’) so determining placement is important so as not to overtake surrounding plant material or structures. Oakleaf Hydrangea also has the other three seasons covered with exfoliating bark/spent flowers in winter, large green leaves in spring, and long white flower clusters in summer.
Fall is an encore performance of color display and the final bow for a great year in the growth cycle of many plants. Introducing them at this perfect time of year ensures their survivability to thrive and flourish for many more years to come. Visit a local garden center nursery on a brisk weekend morning and stroll the rows to see what other plants pique your interest!