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Home and Lifestyle

Kaleidoscope of Color

Trees and plants that paint the town in the fall

Kane County Magazine

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One of the reasons I love living in the Midwest is the changing seasons. Nothing is prettier than the oranges, reds and yellows of the trees and shrubs dotting the area’s landscapes in the fall.

For the shrub border, there are many interesting plants that have great color or even flowers in the fall. Black Chokeberry, Burning Bush, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Gro-Low Sumac and most Viburnum have dark red or burgundy leaves in the fall.

“Tiger Eyes” Sumac not only has bright yellow leaves all summer, but a showy collection of scarlet red and orange leaves in the fall. It’s quite a conversation piece during all seasons.

Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), a deciduous Holly, has yellow fall color followed by deep red berries after the leaves drop. The berries are a welcome sight in the dead of winter.

Hydrangeas hold their flowers well into fall and early winter, and their tan heads look nice after a fresh snow.

“Limelight” is one of the best sun-loving types. (It’s the big plant that you may be seeing around town in people’s yards looking spectacular this year.)

There are shade-loving Hydrangea, such as “Incrediball” with huge white flowers and “Invincibelle Spirit” with pink flowers (that don’t flop). I can hardly keep track of the new Hydrangea introductions, so there are many more I don’t have room to mention that have great flowers and fall color.

Common Witch Hazel has tiny orange and yellow flowers in October, followed by spectacular fall color.

Many shade trees have a stunning display of dark brown, red, burgundy and yellow. Of course, Maples are some of the favorites of fall. Sugar Maples have a blend of colors, Red Maples are red, and Norway Maples are gold.

If you have a smaller yard, try the “Regal Prince” Oak or the “Scarlet Sentinel” Red Maple – both are tall and narrow, yet cast nice shade and have beautiful red, orange and burgundy fall colors.

One of my favorites, is the “Red Jewel” Crabapple, which has bright red fruit in the winter. New varieties of crabapple trees are not messy – the fruit is persistent into winter – and more resistant to Apple Scab, the fungal disease that makes them drop their leaves in summer.

“Whitespire” Birch is smaller than a River Birch and has smooth white bark and bright yellow fall color.

“Autumn Gold” Ginkgo has beautiful fan-shaped leaves that turn a brilliant gold during the fall season and float to the ground like feathers.

Since we always seem to have long winters, I’ve come to appreciate evergreens much more. Whether you add a few Boxwood or Yews, or have room for Pines, Spruce or Fir, you’ll be glad you added some evergreen to the mix.

“Vanderwolf” Pine is a neat small specimen that reaches about 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Its soft blue-green needles are gorgeous, and its smaller size is perfect for suburban yards.

Another great smaller conifer is “Fat Albert” Spruce. This steely blue spruce only grows to about 15 feet tall. Plant breeders are developing smaller versions of the old favorites to fit in suburban settings. Also, there are plenty of “weirdo” evergreens that give unique and colorful accents to the winter landscape.

Try some of these unusual trees and shrubs to brighten up your fall landscape. You’ll be rewarded by other characteristics during the other seasons, as well. There are many more plants that put forth some glorious fall color, so, to be sure, wander around local forest preserves, neighborhoods and your friendly garden center for inspiration.

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Meagan Provencher is the Senior Landscape Designer for Wasco Nursery and Garden Center in St. Charles. She can be reached at 630-584-4424 or

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