Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
November, 2001
Regional Report

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The dogwood tree is one of our most beloved of trees with red fall foliage.

Paint the Town Red

Red is my favorite fall foliage color. It's the energetic counterpoint for the many shades of brown, russet and orange, yellow and gold. Each fall I tour the country side and visit neighborhoods with mature plantings to enjoy the scenery.

Follow Nature's Example

I am often struck by nature's ability to place plants just so in the landscape, and by our attempts to mimic or interpret that scenery. Much of our spectacular foliage is provided by trees and rather large shrubs. For example, a mass planting of so-called dwarf burning bushes (each eight to ten feet tall and wide) or an avenue of fifty foot maples in their full glory is so magnificent I have to stop and admire it.

Pay Attention to Size

I also often see plants that have exceeded the planter's expectations. I see shrubs clipped into unnatural ball shapes along walkways, shade trees sheared off to make way for power lines or other obstacles. Sadly, plantings that ultimately outgrow the space require constant pruning and clipping -- or replacement.

Trees and shrubs should be low-maintenance plants once established. A little research now will help you avoid future blisters from repeated pruning -- or huge tree-trimming bills. So when planting a tree or shrub, check that there is space for it to grow over time in your landscape. A tape measure works well to check width, height can easily be judged against a nearby building or utility pole.

For a small space, look for small varieties of a favorite plant. If none exists, opt for a different plant altogether; there are so many new choices available today that we can usually find "just the right thing" for almost any location.

So what have I been planting for fall color? Most recently, I planted an Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire, zones 5 to 9) with fabulous burgundy fall foliage and fragrant white blooms in the summer. This is a native plant that pulls its weight in the garden and in its dwarf form stays a reasonable size, too.

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