Summer blooms have faded, and the anticipation of the holidays is in the air. Many folks turn indoors as footballs fly and kids are back to school. Especially in the mild climate of the North Bay, with Indian summers stretching into October and even November, autumn is still a great time to be outdoors and enjoy the sun, barbecue on the patio with friends and family, and be out in the garden. At Details Landscape Art, we feel that in the landscape design and installation of a garden, fall is an important opportunity to head into the winter months in a blaze of glory.

Curb appeal in autumn

Many deciduous trees and plants that bloom in spring and wear their green coats through the summer, offer a stunning display of fall foliage to enjoy until the November winds and rain strips the leaves from the branches. In autumn when the temperatures drop, certain plants stop making chlorophyll, which is the pigment that causes plants to be green. In spring and summer, when sunlight is plentiful, plants produce chlorophyll, which is important for them to make food. When the temperature drops (late fall in Northern California), plants stop producing chlorophyll to save energy before the leaves drop. When the chlorophyll disappears, the green color goes with it, allowing the reds, oranges and gold pigments to show. Anthocyanins are pigments that protect leaves from sunburn and insects, and cause the red, pink and purple colors – they are only made in the fall. Carotenoids are orange and yellow pigments.

Good landscape design and installation should include a variety of bloom seasons and allow for autumn interest. Trees we like to include in the landscape with colorful fall foliage include:

  • Chinese pistache – iridescent gold, orange or hot red leaves.Fall Foliage
  • Scarlet maple (Acer rubrum) – ‘October Glory’- should be called ‘November Glory’ in Sonoma County
  • Scarlet maple (Acer rubrum) – ‘Autumn Blaze’ – red fall color
  • Japanese maples – so many varieties, each with its own fall color ranging from golds to oranges to reds.
  • Sapium sebiferum – brilliant red color
  • Tricolor beech
  • Akebono cherry – a cloud of white blossoms in spring, green all summer, then yellow to gold fall color
  • Prunus ‘Snow Fountains’ – weeping habit shows spring white blooms, then summer green, followed by gold in fall
  • Birch
  • Crepe myrtle – one of the few trees that flower into the fall, then show gold foliage before leaves drop
  • Chinese hackberry
  • Dogwood – spring blooms (white or red or pink), green summer leaves, then red fall color
  • Ginko – gold fall foliage
  • Eastern redbud
  • Liquidamber – one of the showiest fall foliage trees – leaves turn a brilliant red/orange, but an extremely messy tree, with nasty spiny balls that drop

Plants with fall color:

  • Japanese barberry (deciduous)
  • Smoke tree – flowers look like puffs of smoke, with summer maroon leaves, then brighter red in fall
  • Nandina (Heavenly bamboo) – ‘Firepower’ turns a brilliant red throughout the winter
  • Spiraea
  • Blueberry
  • Dwarf pomegranate\Oakleaf hydrangea
  • Euonymus (deciduous)
  • Viburnum (many) – nudum ‘Winterthur’ produces pink berries which turn blueberry blue, with reddish leaves as a background…spectacular
  • Grape vines
  • Wisteria
  • Cotoneaster (most deciduous)

The landscape design and installation of a garden should consider all seasons. Don’t forget to enjoy autumn – the forgotten season !