Monday, November 5, 2012

BFFs for Fall Color, Part Deux

Here is my second installment of favorite trees for fall color.  As I said in my first post, BFFs for Fall Color in New England, to make the list the trees had to have more than just fall color as an asset.

Japanese Stewartia (Stewartia psuedocamellia)

My all-time favorite tree, see my previous post, A Tree Love Affair, with a detailed summary of its traits and landscape uses.  This tree has it all in form, flower, bark, and leaf color.  It is also interesting during every season of the year, even in how it carries snow in the winter.  In fall its leaves turn amazingly bright yellow-orange, orange and red colors, some of the most electric in the landscape.

Every garden, no matter how small, would benefit from having a Stewartia.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

I have a love/hate relationship with this tree.  On one hand is one of the most beautiful flowering trees in the spring with pinkish/magenta flowers right on the stems and branches and this wonderful yellow fall color.  It is a smaller understory tree with wonderful heart-shaped leaves.  BUT... Its nickname in the trade is Deadbud as they have a tendency to not do much and die or suffer from dieback on its branches.  This is a tragedy if it is in a position of prominence in the garden, but if you remember that it is a native understory tree and use it as such, it will perform very nicely indeed.  The key seems to be not to give it too much love or rich soil.  Ignore it a little.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)

This is one of our most beautiful native trees and one of the most underutilized.  They are very slow to grow and can be a little finicky to establish, which means sometimes buying smaller specimens that take more time to mature.  However, the mature tree tends to be tall and columnar with very cool flowers in mid-summer that look like the flowers on the andromeda shrub.  It is in the Ericaceae family and closely related to Andromeda, Rhododendron, Azalea and Mountain Laurel.  The flowers persist on the tree and after the frost the leaves slowly change to orange and red.  It can differ by year and tree, but the colors are absolutely brilliant.  This tree, close to downtown Winchester,  that I have watched over the years, is absolutely stunning this year.  Most of the leaves are the bright orange-red and it seems to light up the surrounding area.

Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)

This is my second favorite tree, if only it had a flower it would be my absolute favorite.  A beautiful rich cinnamon-brown bark that peels off every year, right up to the smaller branches.  It has a tri-foliate leaf(three leaflets) and the leaflets are small and tri-lobed. The leaves come out a little late in the spring, but they are an electric green, that turn a darker green during the summer, that forms such a wonderful contrast with the brown bark.  Then, in fall, the leaves turn an unbelievable orange-red towards the end of the leaf season.  My trees haven't even started to show color yet, these came from a local park.  A medium sized tree that is very slow growing and can be made to fit just about any situation.

Little-Leaf Linden (Tilia cordata)

This is a great medium-large shade tree that is best utilized away from the house, terrace, deck or driveway. See my post, Summer Fragrance Surprise:  The Little Leaf Linden, along with the great summer fragrance, it is a late-to-color tree with a soft yellow, heart-shaped leaf.  If only I had a 100-acre property to have all of these favorites and a bunch of Lindens to provide fragrance and beautiful fall color.

It will just have to remain a dream for now.

Fernleaf Full-Moon Maple (Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium')

For a different specimen Maple, consider the Full-Moon Maples or Acer japonicum.  This one is Aconitifolium, as the leaves are reminiscent of the perennial Aconitum.  This is a small, spreading tree with these very large deeply-lobed leaves.  In early spring the tree is covered with maroon-red flowers (you usually don't notice most maple flowers) and then these big floppy leaves come out.  Late in the leaf season, the tree turns all shades of orange to red.  This is another favorite that is well worth the space by the terrace or window.

Such a beautifully complex leaf.


  1. Some of my favorite trees, too! I recently planted 'Aconitifolium' and am eagerly awaiting its fall colors to show. The Eastern Redbud is native to our area and pops up everywhere. I love its gorgeous golden fall coloring, as well as its pink flowers in the spring and its lovely leaves. I have never heard of it being called Deadbud, and I have never seen dieback as a problem here. The problem we have is too many seedlings!

  2. Thanks for the post! I don't have any of these trees, although we used to have a redbud that became a deadbud. I'm very intrigued by the stewartia and paperbark maple - if only the neighbors would let me plant their yards as well.

  3. Fabulous leaves. I am ignoring a few native trees in hopes they will thrive...I have always loved the paperbark maple.