Autumns not just for perennials
after all. Sure, everyone loves the fall show of asters, chrysanthemums, and helianthus,
but theres more to see at this time of year. A few well placed shrubs can color your
world from fall through winter, and many will feed the birds as well.
Shrubs bridge the season with showy leaves, persistent seed pods,
fresh flowers, and maturing berries. Spring flowering favorites return to the spotlight
with fabulous fall color. Roses, blueberries, and forsythia bring welcome red and yellow
tones to the changing landscape as their leaves prepare to let go for another year.
Babys breath spirea turns pure yellow before losing its leaves; in southern gardens,
they often remain until new growth emerges. Red vein enkianthus grows slowly to six feet
tall with leaves three inches long that turn with the season to butter yellow, tangerine
orange, and scarlet red.
The Burning Bush (Euonymous alata) truly catches fire in
fall, each leaf a flaming red sword in sunny garden spots. Look for hardy ones:
Nordine Strain for more compact growth, and Timber Creek has
berries that hang on into winter.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis) boasts brilliant fall color and
red flowered varieties develop even redder hues. Diane turns rich, orange-red,
Jelena goes to a more apricot shade, and Ruby Glow changes orange
Late-flowering shrubs like blue mist spirea (Caryopteris)
and abelias can keep a mixed border blooming well past summer in many areas; the glossy
abelias have whitish pink flowers and also develop purplish leaves in winter. Closely
related is Edward Goucher, a smaller abelia with lilac pink, tubular blooms.
Deep south gardens delight in Camellias with flowers from white
through pink and red to mottled and striped on evergreen plants ranging in size from
groundhuggers to ten by ten foot screening plants. C. japonica (called camellias)
generally have larger leaves and more rounded shapes than earlier-flowering C. sasanqua
(called sasanquas). The tea-oil camellia is hardier than its relatives, and blooms in late
American beautyberry (also known as French mulberry) and Japanese
beautyberry may sound like geography soup, but these deciduous shrubs have violet
drupes that hold on after the leaves fall. They offer excellent wildlife food with berries
in riotous colors, especially the cultivars Luxurians, Issai, and
The viburnum family holds many treasures for fall and
winter. The classic doublefile viburnum looks like its name sounds: double tiers of very
horizontal branches covered with purple-red leaves in fall. After they drop, the black
drupes remain until eaten by birds. In hot, dry climates, southern black haw (V.
rufidulum) grows into a lovely, openly branched shrub with abundant dark blue fruit. For
yellow-orange fruit, look at Michael Dodge or Aurantiacum.
Hollies. Just when it seems the gardens gone
entirely to gray, more shrubs feature a burst of color on winters darkest days.
Choose hollies (Ilex) from a range of mature heights and spreads, with berries in red,
orange, and even yellow, and leaves evergreen and thorny or softly deciduous. Theres
even an outstanding holly for fall foliage, Harvest Red. For a large holly,
Willowleaf delivers abundant berries. Possomhaw, native to the southeastern
US, and Sparkleberry, black alder, and winterberry (the hardiest I.
verticillata) provide holly berries on starkly deciduous, multi-trunked shrubs.
Traditional hollies have red berries, but orange cultivars include Aurantiaca
Cotoneasters. All but the most humid climes can grow one
or more cotoneasters; their red berries mark great arching shrubs and tiny-leafed,
creeping ones, like the rockspray cotoneaster, Robustus. The larger
Redbeads put on hundreds of pinker fruit and have bluish leaves; these grow to
ten by ten feet tall. For most unusual, creamy yellow fruit, look for Cotoneaster
Rothschildianus, another large shrub for sandy, well-drained soils.
Mahonia (Oregon holly-grape) delivers blue berries even in
partial shade. The broad leafed evergreens grow slowly, but with great impact. The bluish
black fruit appear in August and persist through winter. Some mahonias turn bronze in
fall, others have nearly yellow leaves in autumn.
Japanese barberry (Berberis) and its cultivars
Atropurpurea and Bogozam grow at moderate rates to a mature five
feet and about as wide. Their bright red berries are shaped like tiny footballs. Fruit and
leaves will be more colorful in sunny sites.
Bayberry (Myrica) boasts fragrant drupes, grayish white
and coated with wax that makes them last through difficult weather for hungry birds to
find on the coldest days. Bayberrys "cousin", the southern wax myrtle (or
candleberry) is an evergreen and holds its fruit until spring in a mild winter.