Add a dash of colourBy Grant McKechnie
May 12, 2009
In this, my first Plant Talk for 2009, I thought I’d talk about deciduous trees – you know, the ones that go naked in autumn, but give us a good burst of colour first.
Here in Rodney, we might not be able to match the south for depth of autumn colour, but driving around the countryside, you’d have to say we do pretty well. There are plenty of beautiful trees showing their full glory at this time of year – some as individual specimens in paddocks and gardens, some as well-spaced avenues down driveways and some in stands of threes or fives or more.
Autumn colour can be particularly stunning in front of a native backdrop – the green of the bush really accentuates the autumn yellows, oranges and reds.
The Acer family (maples) gives us some slightly different choices for autumn colour. Most of you are familiar with the beautiful Japanese maples, but there’s others, from North America and Europe, which are bigger and much tougher in the wind.
Acer rubrum (Canadian maple), for instance, is a big-growing tree, with a nice rounded form. It prefers dampish conditions, grows quickly (up to 1m a year), is reasonably wind hardy and gives us stunning red autumn colours.
Acer campestre (hedge maple or English maple), has buttery yellow autumn colour, grows large, with a branchy, broad head, has a moderate growth rate and good wind tolerance. It can be used as a clipped hedge in much the same way you would use hornbeam.
If you are looking for something a bit unusual, try Acer platanoides ‘Nigrum’ (purple Norway maple). Eventually a big tree, it has big purple leaves through the summer, turning to reddish purple in autumn.
If you need something big, fast and very tough, Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Purpureum’ will do the trick. Otherwise known as purple sycamore maple, it has purple undersides to its leaves, which in summer, show when the breeze stirs the big leaves. In autumn, the leaves turn orange-yellow. Purple sycamore has good wind tolerance and copes with moist soils.
At the other end of the toughness scale, the Japanese maples (Acer palmatum and varieties) are more suited to the garden than your paddocks. To perform their best, they need good soil conditions and protection from all winds. If you have the right spot, though, they’re stunning with their dainty, almost feathery leaves.
Acer palmatum has green leaves in summer turning to reds in autumn. It’s a small tree of up to 5m. Even smaller, at 2 – 3m, is Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’, which has purple leaves in summer turning to red in autumn.
Acer palmatum dissectum is a weeping form growing to about 1m high, with its branches weeping back down to the ground – perfect by small ponds and waterfalls.
Time to get your spade out.
©2010 Grant McKechnie
Browse our Catalogue
Tough stuff for the farm
Deciduous ornamental trees
Evergreen ornamental trees
Plants for damp & wet places
Plants for coastal or exposed sites
Food for the birds
List all plants