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Which plants give you fireworks in the garden during autumn and through into winter?

Worried that these short days won't bring you any joy? Fear not - there are fireworks to be found in the garden all winter long provided you keep looking for them. Who can possibly have missed the spectacular show that our beautiful trees are giving at the moment? Here at Perfect Plants we are charmed by the surrounding gently falling golden wafers and crimson gowns of glory that are dancing in gusts of wind that can sometimes take your breath away. Yes, it is the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ as so aptly described by Keats, but the changing colour of foliage is so much more exciting.

Amazing Acers

Acer tree in autumn

Stars of the outdoors are undoubtedly Acers in their resplendent attire. They include the aptly named Acer ‘Autumn Blaze’ and Acer rubrum which shine like beacons amongst a backdrop of autumn browns and evergreens. Did you know that an acid moist soil and a sunny spot for Acers will ensure the very best autumn colour?  If we lived across the Atlantic we would term the practice of admiring trees ‘leaf peeping’, but although we can’t claim to rival New England in the fall, there are some trees and shrubs that should be sought out without delay. Amelanchier is one such large shrub.  Also known as the Juneberry or Snowy Mespilus, it gives one of the very best autumn shows with a fantastic fiery display which will stop you in your tracks. It also produces small autumn berries which are edible and can be used in jams or as an alternative to sloe gin.


Then there’s the stately tree Liquidambar with its acer-like leaves. They turn the most vibrant shades of orange, crimson and purple in autumn as the green chlorophyll is broken down to reveal the underlying pigments. It’s anthocyanin, carotene and Xanthophyll that give autumn leaves their fireworks.

Beautiful berries

If you can bear to tear your eyes from the trees there are beautiful berries too. Cotoneaster might be associated by some with the ’horizontalis’ variety which tends to romp away if left unchecked. But there are other, more upright forms. They include frigidus ‘Cornubia’ which bears clusters of berries so huge that they weigh down the branches of the shrub. Our native spindle has also given rise to a few selections of stunners. They include Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ which not only has spectacular autumn leaf colour but masses of fruit too. If you want to visit woods in order to take advantage of the autumn fireworks, try the Woodland Trust website: find a wood near you. Type in your postcode to see what’s around. You can check out the ’10 of the best woods for autumn colour’.


Can you name the trees and shrubs below? Just for fun, and as a test of your plant ID knowledge!

 Cercis Forest Pansy  Liquidambar   Parrotia persica

Here are the answers: Cercis canadensis; Liquidambar; Parrotia persica

By Perfect Plants


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