Small scale, full fall color

The leaves of giant maple and hickory trees seem to steal the fall color show in the Ozarks. However, there are many shrubs that provide excellent color on a much smaller scale than a fully grown tree.

The Rhus species, commonly known as sumac, provides brilliant red cover in the fall that can even be used as a tall ground cover. Sumac grows very well in hard to landscape areas such as slopes that are prone to erosion. They are low-maintenance and drought tolerant. “Aromatica” provides beautiful color and leaves that are fragrant when crushed.

One of my favorite fall color shrubs is Hydrangea quercifolia, oakleaf hydrangea. The oakleaf hydrangea is so named because of its big leaves that resemble the leaves of an oak tree. The leaves gradually change from deep green to dark red as the weather changes. The leaves of this hydrangea will persist into early winter, providing long standing color for many months. Oakleaf hydrangea also has beautiful 12-inch long blossoms in the summer that turn pink as they age.

Depending upon where they are grown witch hazels can be seen as large shrub or a small tree. Hamamelis species is known for being one of the earliest of bloomers in the garden, den, but it can also provide lovely bright yellow leaves in the fall. There are some new breeds of witch hazel that provide red and copper color leaves, too.

Another red-leafed shrub is Itea virginica, commonly known as Virginia sweetspire. This shrub has spires of long white flowers in the spring. In the fall, the dark green leaves turn various shades of red, yellow and orange. If grown in a moist area with rich soil, Virginia sweetspire will sucker and can colonize a large area.

A member or the laurel family is Lindera benzoin, commonly referred to as spicebush. Like most laurels, this shrub will grow in partial shade. Spicebush is covered with tiny yellow flowers in the spring. In the fall, the leaves are an eye-catching butter yellow. The name of this shrub comes from the scent that comes from the leaves when they are crushed.

There are many species of Viburnum that range from three to 30 feet tall. Viburnums have showy white flowers in the spring, if more than one shrub is planted, cross pollination will create fruit for birds. The fall leaves of Viburnums are known for impressive displays of bright red and purple to orange and copper colored leaves that will slowly change color throughout the fall.

These are just a few of the many fall shrubs that can provide excellent color in the garden in the fall, complementing already colorful trees.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com.

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