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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 17, 2017

Thinking smaller for fall color

By Jean Thomson | Oct 26, 2017

We have feasted on fall color this October! Whether you are driving, walking, or just looking out your home or office window, chances are good that you’ve spotted some gorgeous red, yellow or variegated leaves.

While we tend to associate fall color with trees, every part of our landscape has the potential to participate in the pageant. This is exactly the right time to take a close look at your home landscape with fall color on your mind. Are there spots where an additional pop of fall color would be welcome?

If you are planning to tackle a good-sized project next spring — for example, refreshing foundation plantings or coming up with something to control erosion on a troublesome slope — consider making fall color one requirement for your plant selections. Well-chosen shrubs may contribute in multiple ways.

For a very long time, euonymus (burning bush) has been a staple for its wonderful red leaf color in fall. It is also a nice-sized shrub that is easily grown in our area. Unfortunately, it is gaining a bad reputation as an invasive threat.

Rather than taking a chance with euonymus, consider arrowwood viburnum as a substitute or replacement. This hardy shrub is trouble-free, and its color combination of blue berries and red to burgundy leaves is hard to beat.

If you need to mass plants, as you might on a sloping area, there are some great small shrubs that work beautifully as ground covers while offering a fall color bonus.

‘Gro-Low’ is a sumac of very manageable size, unlike the staghorn sumac that blazes out along roadways from large bushes. ‘Gro-Low’ is only two feet tall at maturity, but spreads out to become a terrific ground cover. This native tolerates almost anything: heat, drought and poor soil. Its fall color will be best in full sun, but it will grow nicely in shade as well.

Virginia sweetspire is another stoloniferous plant that makes an excellent ground cover. “Henry’s Garnet,” “Little Henry,” and “Merlot” are among the top cultivars. This native is also tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions and will offer some fall color even in partial shade.

So plan ahead for even more color next fall, but for now, savor the colors of the season wherever you find them.

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