Aspens in Swan Valley
If you’ve ever been to New England when the fall colors are at their peak you know how spectacular it can be. In east Idaho our color palette is a little more limited in the native landscape, but beautiful nonetheless. The native Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) provide the dominant golden yellow on the hillsides, with Cottonwood (Populus sp.) doing the same along the riverbeds. Orange and red usually come from Canyon Maple (Acer grandidentatum) and Rocky Mountain Maple (Acer glabrum) especially in the higher elevations. Serviceberry also provide striking orange to copper color in the fall, while Chokecherries and Red Twig Dogwood will turn a bright red to deep maroon.
Canyon Maple in Swan Valley
Some of these native plants can be found for sale in our nursery to keep with a native theme, but there are many more choices available to enjoy vibrant fall colors in the home landscape. Here are a few of my favorites.
Compact Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus compacta)
Compact Burning Bush is probably the most widely used shrub for fall color in our area- and with good reason. It turns a luminous florescent pink/red color in the fall that is very showy, and it is hardy to -30 degrees. Through the summer it is a very well behaved shrub, needing only occasional pruning to keep looking nice and tidy. Grows to 5-7 feet high and wide, so give it some space.
Virginia Creeper- getting a little out of control.
Climbing vines can also provide some amazing fall color. Some of the best for red fall color are Englemann Ivy and Virginia Creeper. These closely related vines are popular, tough and hardy to -50 degrees. The Englemann Ivy excels at climbing up the sides of houses, using tiny suction cups to climb vinyl siding as well as brick walls. Virginia Creeper uses twining tendrils to climb brick walls, fences, arbors, and trees. Both are fast growing and feature large five-lobed leaves that turn bright red to purple each fall. Virginia Creeper ‘Red Wall’ has particularly exceptional color. There are a number of other climbing vines that can give some great fall color, like Boston Ivy (red), American Bittersweet (orange berries), and climbing roses (yellow).
Cutleaf Sumac Fall Color (Photo by Steven Severinghaus)
Sumac provide some of the most stunning traditional fall colors with their beautiful fall palette of yellows, oranges, coppers, and reds. Both Staghorn and Smooth Sumac are tall shrubs with an exotic tropical look. The bright green of summer turns colorful in the fall, with both brightly colored leaves and showy upright spikes of red-purple fruit lasting into winter. Word of warning: Sumacs sucker vigorously. Best planted where they can be allowed to naturalize.
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is one of my favorite small trees for fall color, displaying a chorus of autumn hues in copper, yellow, and red. I’ve planted it in my last two yards and thoroughly enjoyed it. This small tree grows to about 20-25 ft. tall and is typically multi-trunked. A few suckers will need to be removed around the base each year, but they are generally limited to close to the base of the tree. Although some serviceberries are native in the mountains of east Idaho, I’ve found that Autumn Brilliance prefers a slightly more acidic soil than we have here in the valley. Be sure to feed them each year with a plant food containing iron and sulfur.
Autumn Purple Ash (Fraxinus americana ‘Autumn Purple’
Autumn Purple Ash is a long standing favorite for that deep red to maroon fall color in the landscape. This large shade tree will reach 50 feet in height and width, so give it plenty of room. It is seedless and features deep green leaves forming a dense shade canopy during the summer that turn to a beautiful red to deep maroon in the fall. Hardy to about -30 degrees.
These are five of my favorites, but there are many, many more plants available at Town & Country Gardens that will give you an amazing show of fall colors. Now is the time to stop by as many plants in the nursery are beginning to show their fall colors now.