Garden: let’s talk about foliage, it’s in season!

If the conflagration is the order of the day in September, with foliage in fiery hues, a good number of plants paint the garden with gold leaf, ensuring softness and gaiety under the low sun of autumn. Clear or warmer, the yellows are highlighted if they are based on deep green backgrounds. While it is customary to install trees and shrubs for their changing foliage, it is rarer to think of grasses and perennials, such as euphorbias or ferns.

→ READ. Garden: when acrobatic plants set our facades on fire

Impossible to name all the plants that transform the landscape for a few weeks. How frustrating!

Palmate maples

Graceful, light and elegant, Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) with multiple varieties, display foliage in the shape of a hand, with dazzling colors, evolving over the months, to reach their peak in the fall, like treasures of ‘gold, ruby ​​and purple. Three to six meters high, they keep a compact habit and grow slowly. They perfectly liven up a small garden, nicely shading the plants that grow below.

Even if I recommend a few varieties, nothing beats a visit to a specialized nurseryman at this time. Buying them in containers allows you to choose the foliage that best suits your tastes and the place where they will be installed. I spotted some of them, sublime, on the stands of the Armorican botanical nurseries, at random during the fall floral exhibitions.

They appreciate the soft sun, slightly veiled, or partial shade and do not like the size, which affects their exceptional, very elegant port. At random, here is a small selection from this large family, each one more fascinating than the next:

► ‘Atropurpureum’, crimson all year round, turns bright red in the fall.

► ‘Katsura’has bright orange foliage around the edges and yellow in the center in spring. In summer it turns green with pinkish young shoots then vermilion in autumn.

► ‘Orange Dream’, blazing bright orange in spring, turns light green in summer, finishing golden yellow to bright orange in fall.

► ‘Aoyagi’is bright yellow.

Japonese Sunrise ‘, has golden yellow leaves, painted with bright red grooves to match the stems.

‘Ueno Yama’, leaves postergold, finely edged with vermilion.

A carpet of gold

ginkgo biloba, it is the famous tree with 40 crowns which, in spite of its deciduous foliage, is a conifer. It is reserved for gardens of good size, as it can be up to 25 m high. Plant it for the future, for your great-great-grandchildren: it lives for hundreds of years. Its fan-shaped leaves, bright green with long petioles, metamorphose into pieces of gold in the fall. The spectacle is then as much on the tree as on the ground, when they begin to fall.

Garden: let's talk about foliage, it's in season!

Golden hearts

Betula ermanii, Erman’s birch or Japanese birch, is an elegant tree with shiny, bright green, heart-shaped foliage that turns golden yellow very early in the fall. It quickly grows 15 to 20 m high and 6 to 10 m wide. Its conical crown softens as it grows. The bark white, smooth and shiny, peels in winter, revealing pink shadows.

Garden: let's talk about foliage, it's in season!

Hydrangeas and other hydrangeas

I like the hydrangeas for their foliage than for their inflorescences. I visited the “Under a perched tree” nursery and the surrounding garden several times, in June and October. I must say that it was the colors of the fall foliage that surprised me the most. Amazed, even. More and more, I think that you have to choose your hydrangeas in October, when the wilted flowers, still very beautiful, rub shoulders with the leaves with incredible colors, sometimes golden brown, orange, yellow, purple, other times purple or slate, even black.

Garden: let's talk about foliage, it's in season!

Among the horns

Come on, as we must choose well, let’s opt for Cornus florida ‘Rubra’. In spring, on still bare twigs, it blooms in glomeruli of small olive-green flowers, surrounded by large, flat, bright pink, butterfly-like bracts. At the end of summer, red berries appear, just before the foliage turns into a dazzling palette where pink, mauve, violet and scarlet tones mingle. This small, very rustic tree, with a spreading, slightly conical habit, can reach five meters high and almost as wide. It is isolated that it has the most effect with its branches which, growing horizontally, give it a Japanese aspect.

Garden: let's talk about foliage, it's in season!

Loose names

Like Prévert, here is a far from exhaustive list of shrubs and trees with exceptional coloring … Liquidambar, cotinus, parrotia, serviceberry, chokeberry, spindles, viburnums, forsythias, witch hazel, nandina, stewartia, tulip tree, common ash, American black walnut, and even roses, such as Rosa hugonis or Rosa virginiana …

Good to know

Colorings can vary from year to year, as weather – rain or drought – plays an important role in this process. In a coastal climate, the autumn foliage is rarely flamboyant, the too mild night temperatures do not favor color changes. It is especially in continental climate that the colors are very marked, where the summers are scorching and the nights precociously cold.


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