Deciduous trees might lose their leaves during autumn, but they sure go out in a blaze of glory. Many varieties colour up as the temperatures go down, and the glowing shades can be amazing. It’s true the colours tend to be a little more intense in cold climates, but mild zones don’t disappoint either. In coastal areas, such as Sydney and Perth, many deciduous trees put on an excellent display, so it’s well worth heading off to your nursery now to suss out the best performers.
For the best impact from autumn foliage trees, think about where you will place them in the garden. A single well-shaped feature tree can look wonderful near a front door, for instance. These foliage trees also contrast beautifully against evergreens, such as conifers, dense green hedges or banks of native lilly pillies.
For a truly autumnal garden scene, underplant a showy deciduous tree with a few ornamental grasses, or those stalwarts of this season, gorgeous chrysanthemums and Easter daisies (Aster species).
Because autumnal leaf colours vary from plant to plant, it’s a good idea to visit your local nursery mid-season to make your choice. Not only will you be able to select your favourites but, also, it’s the ideal time for planting trees and shrubs.
10 of the best
•Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) has vivid apricot, red and gold foliage along elegant, horizontal branches. Height: to 12m.
•Golden ash (Fraxinus excelsior ‘Aurea’) has golden-green summer leaves that turn deep old-gold in autumn. Height: to 7m.
•Pin oak (Quercus palustris) develops crimson foliage on an elegant conical tree. The scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) turns an even more brilliant shade of red. Height: to 12m.
•Lipstick maples (Acer rubrum cultivars) are forms of the North American red maple and glow with red and orange in autumn. Look for ‘October Glory’ and ‘Fairview Flame’. Height: from 10 to 12m.
• Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are perfect for small gardens and happy in large pots. They offer shades of gold, orange and red, even in mild climates. Height: to 7m.
• Ornamental pears (Pyrus species) are shapely trees with stunning orange, red or gold foliage – sometimes all at the same time. ‘Chanticleer’ is an excellent form. Height: to 11m.
• Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) features shades of orange, red and purple. This moderate-sized tree has small, heart-shaped leaves and is a good choice for warm climates. Height: to 12m.
• Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) features late-summer blooms, which are followed by an autumn foliage display in yellow and orange. Height: to 7m.
• Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is the perfect choice for a haze of pure autumn gold. It’s also known as the maidenhair tree. Height: to 25m.
• Liquidambar (Liquidambar styraciflua) has variable shades, from yellow to red to dark purple, and is a wonderfully reliable tree. Look for smaller cultivars, like ‘Gumball’ and ‘Parasol’. Height: to 25m.