Sunday, October 3, 2010

The beauty of Fallscaping: Berries and Foliage

While some people look at autumn with fear and loathing--because of our Atlantic winters on the horizon--we love the riot of colour found at this time of year. We at Baldwin Nurseries are wholehearted fans of the colours of autumn, when foliage erupts into blazing shades, when berries and seeds glow against leaf and twig. Let's show you some of the magical colours found in ornamental plants, both native and introduced. We'll start off with the flush of burgundy in this 'Popcorn' viburnum.

Not everyone can grow smoke bushes (Cotinus) successfully in Nova Scotia. In some areas, the temperature just gets too cold, and the winds are too brutal, to have these shrubs come through year after year. But many people CAN and do enjoy having a smoke bush in their plantings. Autumn really shows off the best of this shrub's attributes.
Our native oaks provide a gorgeous burst of colour, usually later in the season. They often will hold onto their leaves for a long time, right into winter, a process known as marcescence. Usually, younger trees and shrubs are more apt to do this than more mature specimens. Oaks, beeches, and hornbeams quite often exhibit marcescent behaviour.

The common shrub northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) has handsome leaves that turn marvelous shades of wine and burgundy...

...while the female plants display their waxy blue-grey berries, which are used to make bayberry candles by people, and enjoyed by various songbirds as a source of winter food.

Our native maples such as the sugar and red maple put on a spectacular show in autumn, turning our hillsides and streetsides glowing with carmine, fuchsia, scarlet, gold, bronze and crimson shades.

The native shrub Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) is an underutilized shrub in home landscapes. This is a great pity, because it's an easy care, hardworking shrub, with fernlike foliage that has a pleasing scent, and excellent fall colour.

Some of the hydrangeas, including the lacecap 'Blue Billows' and 'Preziosa', have excellent fall colour to their leaves and stems.

A nice selection of evergreens and hardwood shrubs and trees, glowing with a rainbow of shades. Not a flower in sight, but this is an attractive planting, isn't it?

One of the best native small trees or large shrubs, the amelanchier (various common names include shadbush, serviceberry, saskatoon, chuckly pear...) is an excellent choice for any garden. Early to bloom and leaf out, excellent fruits, and then this iridescent foliage colour in autumn. What's not to love?

Another tree that holds its foliage even after the colour has faded is the beech. Both the native and introduced species exhibit marcescense.

The native highbush cranberry is not a cranberry but a viburnum (Viburnum trilobum), a small tree or good-sized shrub with brilliant crimson berries. Songbirds eat these berries by late autumn. The foliage turns a handsome burgundy.

We carry a number of different cultivars of barberry at Baldwins, many of which have gorgeous fall colour. This is a common green form, which looks like foliar fireworks, and which is covered in bright crimson berries that show up beautifully after the leaves have fallen.

One of our hardy dogwoods, (Cornus sericea) with snowwhite berries against burgundy foliage.

All sumacs display excellent fall colour, although the most popular are the cutleaf sumac (shown here) and the new cultivar 'Tiger Eyes', which is even more brilliant. The berries of female sumacs are a good source of nutrients for songbirds.

Next time, we'll talk more about fall colour, with more of a focus on evergreens.