The Hort Report – October 2017 Edition

In Conservatory by dfiik

Autumn on Fire!

This time of year we always wish that we had planted more of those striking foliage plants with fall foliage colour. Autumn drives become a spectacular treat as forests of Sugar Maple are set ablaze against a backdrop of feathery yellow Larch and a carpet of glowing Goldenrod – all initiated primarily by shorter daylight hours.

The process of abscission (where leaves no longer need to make nutrients therefore the roots no longer provide the the leaves with minerals) results in the break down of chlorophyll (green pigment) leaving only xanthophylls (yellow pigment) and carotenoids (orange pigment) in all their glory for all to enjoy. Anthocyanins produce the striking purple and red pigment that takes our breath away. As cells become weaker, the foliage that once provided nourishment to all of the trees, shrubs and plants all season long is released to dance in the wind and blanket green lawns. Eventually, the only pigment that remains are the tannins leaving the foliage a crispy brown soon to be covered by a clean blanket of snow.

Now is the time to compile the wish list for next year, so that when we storm the garden centres next Victoria Day weekend, we arrive armed with our Autumn inspiration.


  • Natives like Sugar Maple, Red Maple and Sumac are proud show stoppers of fiery canopies; the Larch’s enchanting feathery, yellow foliage towers throughout the open woodlands; Birch trees develop yellow heads topping their snow-white papery bark trunks; Aspen accent the landscape with yellow halos; Serviceberry turns a brilliant red and orange; Witch Hazel’s golden hue bears decorative red margins.
  • Gingko’s golden foliage fans wave and glow in the sunlight.


  • Natives like Viburnum, an outstanding fall specimen with ornamental clusters of red berries that the birds enjoy; falling leaves reveal the Red Twig Dogwood’s striking red stalks which are the perfect accent for the perennial garden.
  • Burning Bush, so aptly named for its brilliant red foliage
  • Smokebush provides the entire fall spectrum of plum purples to orange accents
  • Oakleaf Hydrangea boasts a kaleidoscope of brilliant shades of plum, red and orange


  • Vines: Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper both deliver a powerful punch of firey red foliage

So, don’t mourn the end of the growing season. Take advantage of this winter season to rest, peruse through garden catalogues and plan garden interest for all of the coming seasons – especially the Fall.

Photo Credit: Mike White