Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
October, 2000
Regional Report

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Crabapples not only have beautiful spring flowers, in fall their edible berries turn red or yellow, attracting birds and people.

New England Fall Foliage

Every year I'm amazed. I've lived and visited many different countries and climates, but I must say I've never seen anything like the fall colors in New England. The combination of cool weather and diversity of tree and shrub species creates this rainbow of colors over the hillsides in October.This year, with all the rain, trees and shrubs have grown well, and the cool nights and short days are bringing on the color.

My Fall Foliage Plants

Since part of our property is in the woods and on a lake, we let Mother Nature provide the fall scenery with the brilliant reds and oranges of the maples and the yellows of the ashes and cherries. But in our yard, some surprising trees and shrubs provide fall color. We all know that burning bush (Euonymous alata) is famous for its scarlet fall foliage, but I like the wine color that our Judd viburnum (Viburnum judii) turns in response to the chilly nights. Our common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is the hardiest (USDA Zone 3) witch hazel; its leaves turn a bright yellow in fall. Not only that, it flowers in late autumn, providing yellow spiderlike flowers when the predominant landscape color is brown.

Colorful Flowers and Berries Too

It's not just the leaves of our plants that provide a colorful show in fall. Berries and flowers of native and introduced plants are colorful and edible (at least to our bird friends). The staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) that grows near our driveway turns a dark red this time of year, and the red flower head seems to become even more prominent as the leaves drop. Our red-leaved barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea') features purple-red leaves all summer and fall as well as bright red berries that birds love.

Speaking of berries for birds, many species of the viburnum family produce red berries that birds love. My favorites are European cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus) and American cranberry bush (V. trilobum). We even made a tasty jam from these berries one year, but with tomatoes to can and potatoes to dig, I think I have enough to do for now. I'd rather just sit back and watch the autumn show that nature provides and remind myself why I love living in New England.

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