by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia
I’ve always wanted an October Glory maple tree for its red fall color. Finally, several years ago, I got one and I couldn’t be happier. About this time of year, its vivid red foliage warms me on cool October days.
Maples, among my favorite trees, are just a few of the shade trees that put on an eye-catching display of color when temperatures begin to cool and prepare us for winter. In fact, sugar maple entertains you with a color wheel throughout the year – pale green leaves that mature to dark green and then to yellow, orange and red.
Our bald cypress features finely textured green leaves that turn nice shades of bronze and brown before dropping to the ground where they are so easy to rake up and place in beds as naturally decomposing compost.
Crape myrtles, the 100 days of flowers in summer, provide several weeks of fall color, their leaves in shades of red, orange and yellow, depending on the variety.
Our Japanese maples – Coral Bark and Crimson Queen -- change from lime green and dark green into yellow and red, respectively. In winter, Coral Bark lives up to its name, its bark a showy red-pink that stands out against the starkness of the winter landscape.
Last, but not least, “my girl,” as I like to call our female eastern red cedar, takes on stronger bluish-green hues with bluish-green fruits decorating her boughs as the holidays arrive. She’s among my favorite trees in the yard because she provides songbirds with shelter, nesting spots and food.
Other trees that provide spectacular fall color include black tupelo that can contain many shades of yellow, orange, red, purple and scarlet on the same branch; sweet gum with star-shaped leaves that look yellow, purple and red; and our native dogwood with its fiery red leaves and ornamental fruits.
If your yard lacks trees with autumn color, now is the perfect time to add one, two or three. Fall planting is best for trees, shrubs and perennials because the root systems establish before hot, dry weather arrives again. Then, you can add a few pumpkins, as well as pots of mums, pansies and ornamental kale, for a picture-perfect fall décor.