Fall Foliage Color at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens

Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-0011Japanese maples are a great source of November fall color because they lose their leaves later than most other trees.

At Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, the landscape provides ornamental interest 365 days a year.  To make this happen, I expect most trees and shrubs to have at least two ornamental qualities peaking at different times before they are given precious garden space.  Ornamental interest can come from flowers, fruit, bark, leaves, habit, texture, and fall color.  Brightly colored fall leaves are a wonderful way to extend your garden’s interest through November.  Some of my favorite fall foliage stars are profiled below.      

Nursery News: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-006Native oakleaf hydrangeas turn beautiful shades of red and then burgundy over a long period of time.  The leaves in the upper left of the photo are still green while the foliage in the upper right is deep burgundy.  I also grow oakleaf hydrangea for its fresh and dried flowers, peeling bark, unusually shaped large leaves, walnut and dry shade tolerance, and tropical texture.  It is a true four-season star.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-003Plants in the witch hazel family often have elegant leaves and beautiful fall colors, and winter hazel, Corylopsis, is no exception.  Here it is surrounded by ‘All Gold’ Japanese hakone grass.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade GardensThe lovely purple spots on the leaves of ‘Katherine Adele’ hardy geranium darken as the fall progresses.  In mid-November, as other perennials go dormant around it, ‘Katherine Adele’ fills out and reaches an ornamental peak.  I also grow it for its pretty pink flowers in spring.  However, I grow many varieties of hardy geranium and this variety is the worst for self-sowing, and the seedlings are hard to remove.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-005‘Mohawk’ viburnum resulted from a cross between Burkwood hybrid and Korean spicebush viburnums.  It is a medium-sized shrub with elegant and highly fragrant flowers.  ‘Mohawk’, a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society gold medal winner, is particularly treasured for its stunning and log-lasting fall color.  I also love the rose-red buds that precede the white flowers in April.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-004My grove of native pawpaws turns a beautiful yellow in the fall.  Very easy to grow, pawpaws produce an abundance of edible fruit with a taste and texture resembling banana-mango-pineapple custard.  Fruit production is enhanced by planting two different cultivars.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-007Native flowering dogwood, on the left above, turns a gorgeous red in the fall.  Its flowers, fruit, bark, and habit are also highly ornamental. 

Witch hazels have a very unique yellow-orange fall color that stands out in the landscape.  ‘Angelly’, on the right above, is my favorite witch hazel because of its striking, bright yellow, spring flowers, which made my choice easy when I was confronted with a greenhouse full of hundreds of witch hazels in bloom.  ‘Angelly’s’ flowers stood out.   It also has the crucial ability to shed its old leaves.  Witch hazel flowers blooming among hundreds of old brown leaves are not attractive and removing the leaves by hand is a chore.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-002Another perennial that comes into its own in the fall is Ruby Glow euphorbia or wood spurge.  The leaves and stems darken as the season progresses and are much more purple now than when I took this photo on November 7.  I also value Ruby Glow for its unusual chartreuse flowers in spring and its upright, shrub-like habit.  Although its common name is wood spurge, it prefers a sunny location.


DSCN7098Japanese maples have stunning fall color very late in the fall foliage season.  They can self sow prolifically and have sometimes been called invasive.  This tree was a seedling that appeared in my garden in the right place at the right time.  In the lower right of the photo are the beautiful yellow leaves of native ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-008Generally unselected Japanese maples have red fall color.  However, I prefer the seedlings that have yellow or orange foliage in fall.  The above seedling growing out of the side of a giant London plane tree in my nursery sales area has multi-colored leaves.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens1If you are considering adding a Japanese maple to your garden, you can choose from the hundreds of cultivars selected from Acer palmatum.  The variety of sizes, leaf shapes, habits, fall colors, etc., available is amazing.  Pictured above and at the top of the post is ‘Shishigashira’ or lion’s head Japanese maple, one of my favorites.  It is under-planted with ‘Shell Pink’ lamium and fall-blooming hardy cyclamen, fall stars in their own right.


Fall Foliage 2015 Carolyn's Shade Gardens-009I will end this post with a photo of three spectacular native plants.  The taller tree is yellowwood, valued as a medium-sized shade tree with beautiful, fragrant flowers and striking yellow fall color.  The small tree is a flowering dogwood discussed earlier in the post.  The shrub with the orange fall color is a flame azalea, one of our stunning native deciduous rhododendrons.



Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

18 Responses to “Fall Foliage Color at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens”

  1. Great illustrations of fall color from traditional and less expected trees, shrubs, and forbs. The Oakleaf Hydrangea is particularly stunning.

  2. Each of your posts gives me great joy. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.

    • Wonderful to get such a nice comment. Writing posts and photographing the plants is a lot of work. I wish more readers would take the time to ask questions or add their own comments so the communication didn’t all go one way. As you know because you did it, all a reader has to do is click on “leave a comment” and type it into the box (or just type it into the box if the box is already there). Thanks for making the effort and Happy Thanksgiving, Carolyn

  3. Donna Thornton Gahwiler Says:

    I really enjoy your newsletters and articles. Thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. Happy Thansgiving! I am relatively new to your blog and always enjoy it. I look forward to visiting your nursery when reopened! Question: I have read Euphorbia tends to spread? What is your experience? Thank you,

    • Marianne, Glad you enjoy the blog and thanks for taking the time to ask a question. There are many types of euphorbias and some are quite invasive. This euphorbia just makes a nice little shrub-like clump. It is so pretty, I wish it would spread. Carolyn

  5. When I flew over PA into Washington, DC recently, the first thing I noticed was the Japanese Maples glowing. The intensity of color was amazing. It must have been a good year for fall color in your area. Even up here we had a decent showing. While not usually found in gardens, Sumac is a native with spectacular color and Virginia Creeper is a vine that dazzles too.

    • Donna, Sumac is one of my favorite native shrubs—I am so glad you mentioned it. Wonderful habit, fall color, leaves and flowers. The cultivar ‘Laciniata’ is great for home gardens. According to Bernd Heinrich in his amazing book Winter World, sumac is the key plant for keeping birds alive through the winter as its berries are available the longest of any native species (he researches and writes in New England). Carolyn

  6. You have so many wonderful colours, November certainly isn’t a dull month in Carolyn’s shade Garden.

  7. You have highlighted some of my favorite plants. My Japanese maples do produce a lot of seedlings, and I have wondered if sometime in the future these fabulous non-native trees could be on the invasive lists. That would break my heart! The seedlings are easy to get rid of, and the trees offer so much beauty in all seasons.

    • Deb, I am pretty sure that Japanese maples are on some invasive lists already. The straight species seed more then the cultivars but even the cultivars produce seedlings. I wouldn’t plant them in or near a natural area that still has mostly native plants. Carolyn

  8. Always a pleasure to see your gorgeous foliage Carolyn. I wish J maples liked my climate but one dark burgundy variety is all that seems to grow around here…I adore their variety of foliage.

  9. I think fall in Pennsylvania has a special beauty, and you have captured it. Lovely pictures and descriptions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: