Our landscapes are changing into their fall wardrobe which in many cases is brown, brown and more brown. Add some pizzazz with shrubs with colorful leaves and berries. As leaves lose their green chlorophyll, the underlying colors shine through in an autumn palette of red, gold, purple and orange. Many shrubs reveal these vibrant leaf colors.
I’m a sucker for sumac. Native varieties are already blazing red and orange along roadsides, but are often too big for the average backyard. A better choice is a shorter cultivar such as the 3-foot ‘Gro-Low’ sumac. It’s a tough drought-resistant shrub that can handle poor soil. Its botanical name – Rhus aromatica – hints at another bonus: scented leaves.
Also scented is native fothergilla. Fragrant white bottlebrush blooms cover the plant in spring and in the fall it can wear red, yellow, orange and sometimes all of autumn’s colors combined.
Related to fothergilla is our native witch hazel. Its leaves turn a sprightly yellow edged with orange in fall. In winter it flaunts spidery yellow flowers. Yes, it blooms in winter.
Oakleaf hydrangeas’ distinctive leaves deepen into a rich purple, red and bronze in autumn. Their whopping blooms – like lilacs on steroids – tinge from white to mauve as they mature.
Love red? Be kind to the environment and skip invasive burning bush which bullies out native plants. Opt for a highbush blueberry instead which flashes the same rich red and provides food for both you and wildlife. Berries are berry – um, very – striking additions to the fall landscape. Here are a few of my favorite berry-producing shrubs:
Viburnums are handsome, tough, pest-resistant shrubs whose praises I love to sing. There are over 150 species and sizes run the gamut. Flower forms range from snowballs to flat-top clusters and many are fragrant. Fall leaf colors range from rose to burgundy. Then their berries take center stage in shades of yellow, orange, pink, red, blue and black. Some even have two-tone berries.
I am not alone in my fondness for viburnum. Author and plantsman extraordinaire Michael Dirr says, “A garden without viburnum is akin to life without music and art.”
The native American beautyberry stops traffic in the fall. Somewhat nondescript much of the year, its cascading branches hold fistfuls of purple berries in autumn. If you see it, you want it.
Cotoneaster is another underused cascading shrub, this one dotted with red berries. Pronounced cah-toe-knee-aster (no, not “cotton Easter,”) it looks especially fine draped over the top of a wall
Native red chokeberry has dangling clusters of red fruits. The ones in our demonstration garden get rave reviews when they are loaded with fruit or their abundant snowball-like spring flowers.
Get thee to a nursery. Enjoy a pleasant stroll while you search for just the right shrubs to enliven your fall landscape.
By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.
This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media.