How to choose trees, hedges and shrubs for autumn interest

Autumn is a fantastic time of year for planting as its cool, damp weather creates the perfect conditions for root growth.

If you are choosing a tree, hedge or shrub for its autumn colour, it will hold onto its leaves for as long as possible if planted in a sheltered place. The colour and intensity of autumn foliage is influenced by soil type and the season’s rainfall , so this may vary year to year.

We have selected our top 10 finest autumn colouring trees, hedges and shrubs that are suitable for most gardens;

The Red Oak (Quercus rubra) is a very fast-growing tree (up to 2.5cm per year) originating in North America. A handsome tree, it frozen-leaves-1313983-mhas deeply cut, pointed lobed leaves which turn a spectacular red in autumn before leaf fall. Suits: lime free soil for the best autumn colour. Size after 10 years: 10m x 6mhe Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) is native to Britain and has a long season of interest. In addition to bearing fruits which ripen in late summer and good autumn colour, it also looks stunning in late spring when it is covered with masses of white fragrant blossom. An important tree for wildlife as well as for its ornamental value, it is sometimes seen in parks and as roadside planting, and is a great addition to woodlands.  Suits: acid soils. Size after 10 years: 5m x 3m.

A picturesque and attractive medium-sized native tree. Field Maple (Acer campestre) has a palmate 5 lobed leaf which is pinkish or red in spring, then green, before turning bright golden-yellow in autumn. Suits: chalky soils. Size after 10 years: 8m x 3m.

The Rowan or Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) is perhaps the prettiest of our native trees. With delicate leaves, which create arowan-tree-996649-m light canopy, clusters of creamy flowers, scarlet-orange berries and good autumn leaf colour, it looks good through much of the year. Thoroughly hardy (it grows well in the far north of Scotland) and trouble-free to grow, it has excellent wildlife value and is equally attractive in urban gardens as it is in woodland. Suits: most soils and can tolerate very acidic soils. Size after 10 years: 8m x 3m

More familiar to many as the Sloe, from its large fruits ripening in late autumn, Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is an important native deciduous shrub often seen growing wild in the countryside. A densely spiny suckering shrub, it makes one of the best stock-proof hedges and forms an essential part of wildlife hedges. Its snowy white blossom appears in very early spring before the leaves and is followed in late autumn by the purplish-black fruits. Suits: most soils and situations, including wet, exposed sites. Size after 10 years: 5m x 1.5m

Aspen (Populus tremula) is medium-sized, fast-growing and very distinctive native deciduous tree, with a wide distribution over fall-aspens-close-up-197759-mEurope, Asia and Africa. A tree, with leaves that, so that they are constantly moving and rustling. The leaves shimmer and tremble in the slightest breeze and turn a rich golden yellow in autumn, whiltst he young leaves are bronze in spring, making it attractive at all seasons. It is one of our most important trees for wildlife, supporting a wide range of insects, including the endangered Aspen Hoverfly. Suits: all soils except very thin chalk, and thrives on exposed hillsides. Size after 10 years: 8m x 4m

A British native, very upright suckering shrub, with good autumn colour and reddish stems in winter, Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) is a good wildlife plant and can be used in mixed wildlife hedges.  It is often seen wild on the chalky soils of S.E. England. Suits: most soils and is particularly useful for damp sites.  Size after 10 years: 3m x 2.5m

The Spindleberry (Euonymous europaeus) is a British native, often seen in hedgerows on chalky soil in the south of England. Fast growing, it is an attractive shrub in autumn when the leaves turn bright red and contrast with the strange pink 4-lobed fruits, which split partially open the reveal bright orange seeds. It is best grown in mixed wildlife hedges and on woodland margins, but is also a good garden shrub. Suits: well drained and chalky soils.  Size after 10 years: 6m x 3m.

Purple Berberis (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea) is a dense, deciduous very spiny shrub with dark reddish purple leaves colours-of-the-autumn-1046856-mwhich turn a rich red in autumn. The pale yellow flowers, suffused with red are followed by red berries in autumn, so this attractive shrub has a lot to offer.   Size after 10 years: 1.8m x 1.5m

Also known as the Snowball Tree, the Guelder Rose (Viburnum Opulus) is one of our most attractive native shrubs with excellent wildlife and garden value. With showy leaves which develop good autumn colour, large heads of white flowers and huge bunches of glistening red berries, it has a very long season of interest. Suits: most soils and situations.  Size after 10 years: 5m x 4m

Please refer to our FAQ’s and Advice page if you need any planting hints and tips.

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