Burning Bush fall color

Midway through last month, I told my California-native wife, “I’m sorry, but we’re just not going to get much summer this year.” Thankfully, I was wrong! As we enjoy this beautiful late summer, you’ve probably already started to notice a few changes in the season hinting that autumn isn’t too far off. From heavy morning dew to a smattering of gold and orange on maple trees, fall will be here soon. So what can you plant to add a splash of color to your yard for autumn? Moreover, is it safe to do so?

First, let me assure you that fall is a great time to plant. Whether you’re looking to add a few shrubs to your yard or redo an entire landscape, September and October are great months to work outside. Cooler nighttime temperatures and more regular rain (soon enough!) make autumn an ideal time to get work done in your yard. And while the nicer weather lasts, warm soil is great for encouraging rapid root development for your new plants.

In the past number of years, ornamental grasses have seen a surge in popularity among gardeners. One of my favorites is one called ‘Little Bunny.’ A small mound of finely-textured green grass, its delicate, puffy seed heads resemble bunny tails. This year, a brand new introduction is called ‘Burgundy Bunny.’ It bears all the same characteristics as ‘Little Bunny’ but with added color. In summer, a splash of red on the leaves will first catch your eye; in autumn, the entire plant will turn red. Use it as an accent in a sunny flowerbed or show it off in a container—its small size will fit most any space.

Another great plant for fall color—and interesting texture—is a relatively new variety of sumac called ‘Tiger Eyes.’ In spring and summer, its soft, velvety branches hold lacy leaves of bright green or gold colors—that alone makes it showy. But come fall, the foliage lights up with intense scarlet and orange shades sure to brighten any rainy October day.

Like I mentioned above, you may have started to see the first hints of fall color on maples as you drive around the county. If you love the interest maples provide but simply don’t have the space for a full-size version, there are still great options. First, ‘Lion’s Head’ Japanese maple provides great shape, texture and fall color in a small package. Very slow growing, this variety tops out at 10 feet—but it may take 30 years to get there! In fall, its tightly crinkled leaves turn bright shades of coppery orange, and even after it drops its leaves, the robust branches provide great structure to your garden through the winter.

If an upright Japanese maple isn’t right for the space you have, try a weeping laceleaf variety. One of my favorites is ‘Viridis.’ Green through spring and summer, it will turn the brightest of orange shades in autumn; with its small stature, it can fit in most any garden space.

Finally, if you have space for a beautiful shade tree—and with this weather, that sounds good—try a katsura. In fall, its small round leaves turn a beautiful shade of gold with touches of orange.

Whatever the amount of space you have available in your garden, adding some extra fall color can brighten up a dark day and extend the beauty of your landscaping into a new season. Stop by your favorite local nursery to check out what’s on sale and what you can add to your yard today!