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The 10 Best Hardy Plants For Autumn Colour

As I sit to type this, I have the luxury of admiring the changing colour in my neighbour's trees. This and recent weekend trips to the woods have made me wonder if I could replicate this year's fantastic autumn colours in my garden. If you're thinking the same, here are the top ten plants I recommend.
The colourful view from my window.

1. Acers

There are so many different varieties of Acers to chose from.
These stunning trees provide us with interest throughout the year, and some offer an extra display in Autumn. I received an un-named sapling a few years ago that turns a mid red at this time of year, however to my mind Acer 'Osakazuki' is the best autumn show off as it turns such a brilliant red. Back in October, Alan gave us a masterclass on how to look after them.

Japanese Maple 'Osakazuki'

Acer palmatum (Amoenum Group) 'Ōsakazuki'

A red maple tree

Everything You Need to Know About Japanese Maples


2. Amelanchier

This tree can be routinely pruned to contain its height
Although regularly grown for its snowy white flowers in Spring, this plant's Autumn display makes it a beautiful addition to a garden. Especially in smaller gardens where plants need to work harder and entertain us for longer!

3. Callicarpa

Photo by Candide community member Sarah_W
Most of us recognise the beautiful purple berries of this plant. But it is the dark green leaves, slowly turning from purple to a golden yellow, that show the berries off perfectly. This plant is a relatively slow grower, and its flowers (and then berries) are produced on the previous year's growth. With that in mind, only cut back older stems in late winter if it outgrows the desired space.

4. Cercis

Photo by Jonathan Billinger.
To enjoy Cercis' dramatic autumn display, as well as its summer colour, plant this small tree next to lime green foliage plants. Although I've not tried it, the RHS say that C. 'Forest Pansy' can be pruned by stooling to produce larger leaves.

5. Cornus

Our patch of C. Midwinter fire has overgrown it's space, so we'll be removing two plants now and then the remaining three in Spring
The vividness of this yellow never fails to lighten my mood, especially over the last few days which have been damp and grey. C. Midwinter Fire is a slow-growing variety which will only need pruning every three or four years. Prune more frequently and you could risk losing the red, orange and yellow stems over winter.

6. Cotoneaster

The species name, horizontalis gives away this shrub's scrambling habit
In late summer and early Autumn, the bright red berries of Cotoneaster are shown off by the small and delicate green leaves. But we frequently miss the leaves turning from deep purple to bright red before they fall and expose the herringbone-shaped branches which give this plants its common name. This plant is ideal for growing against a north-facing wall or fence and will tolerate routine hard cutbacks to stop it from spreading too far.

7. Euonymus

It's autumn leaf colour is described as Rosy-red, but for me it's a lipstick pink!
With an average height and spread of 1m x 1.5m, this low maintenance shrub is a performer. It will also reward you with small green flowers in Spring, red-purple and orange fruits in late summer and its tactile corky ridged bare branches in winter. The plants only downside is that all parts of the plant are toxic if eaten, but in my opinion, a definite must.

8. Fothergilla

photo by processed
This plant is mostly grown for its white spring flowers and blue summer leaves. However, this American import is worthy of being included in an Autumn garden for its stunning displays. Requiring ericaceous (acidic) soil, its smaller size means it can be grown in containers and is ideal for those of us with alkaline soil.

9. Parthenocissus

For me nothing beats the Virginia creeper for autumn colour.
Not for everyone because of its vigorous growth habit, this is a low maintenance plant that I love. Growing it against an east-facing wall or fence will give it enough sun for autumn colour without encouraging too much rampant growth. Yearly pruning in late winter is a must.

10. Malus

Crab apples are a great plant for both us and wildlife.
Malus trees develop the most bright red fruit that, at a glance, could almost be mistaken as large cherries. The fruit hangs on long stems and combined with the yellow, orange tones of the autumn leaves, gives a breathtaking display.
Hopefully, there's something in my top 10 that can be added to your space, and remember once those leaves have fallen, they can carry on giving us pleasure. And you can collect them up to make leaf mould!

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