We mustn’t forget the much beloved oakleaf hydrangea. Hydrangea quercifolia cultivars range from large (like ‘Snow Queen’ and ‘Alice’) to much smaller (‘Pee Wee’ and ‘Sike’s Dwarf’) They all have those large pyramidal panicles of white flowers, exfoliating bark and lobed, oak-like leaves. In the fall those leaves turn to shades of bronze, maroon and purple. This hydrangea flowers on old wood so, if you feel the need to prune, don’t wait until too late in the season or you will cut off next year’s blooms.
Itea is becoming a popular plant, too. It is very versatile – sun or shade, and tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions and is drought tolerant. Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ grows to about four foot tall and wide. ‘Little Henry’ is about half this size. Spring flowers form cylindrical white racemes that cover the plant. Fall colors are variations on a reddish theme.
Fothergilla major and fothergilla gardenii (dwarf fothergilla) are also tough plants with excellent shade tolerance, though they also do well in full sun. It has a white spring bloom and excellent, rather cherry red, fall color.
Enough of this red – how about yellow? Clethra alnifolia, lindera benzoin (spicebush), and Hamamelis virginiana (common witchhazel) all turn a striking yellow in the fall.
Autumn is almost upon us. The end of summer, but definitely not the end of a beautiful landscape. Fall can compete with any season for beauty in the garden.