Plants - Trees and Shrubs

Leaves of gold

Janet Davis

Explore the design possibilities of vibrant fall foliage in the garden

Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Height, 6 to 8 m; spread 3 to 6 m. Moist, well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. Zone 3, shown above
This exquisite, multi-stemmed native has the distinction of being the last shrub to flower in October, with small, yellow blossoms that are sometimes obscured by the rich yellow of the fall leaves. 

Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Height, 3 m; spread, 5 m. Average garden soil; full to part sun. Zone 2
Chartreuse spring foliage, spirea-like, white, earlysummer flowers, peeling bark and wine red summer seedheads make native ninebark a worthy addition to the back of the shrub border. In late autumn, the leaves turn yellow: not too showy, but attractive—just like this hardy, undemanding shrub. ‘Dart’s Gold’ is a good choice for smaller gardens.

Blue-star (Amsonia hubrichtii)
Height, 60 to 90 cm; spread, 60 cm. Moist, well-drained soil; full sun. Zone 5
The light blue, late-spring flowers of blue-star are rather subtle, but in fall this native perennial turns on the fireworks as its needle-like foliage turns brilliant apricot gold. Pair with dwarf burning bush (Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’) for an eye-catching combo.

Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans)
Height, 60 to 90 cm; spread 90 cm. Humus-rich soil; keep moist when sited in full sun. Zone 3
Not only do the thick, puckered, blue-green leaves of this large hosta repel hungry slugs, they also turn a stunning gold in autumn, retaining their colour for a surprisingly long time. Pair with fall asters and garden chrysanthemums.

gold-leaves2.jpgSolomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
Height, 60 to 120 cm; spread 60 cm. Moist, humus-rich soil; part sun to full shade. Zone 3
With its elegant, pendulous spring flowers and tall arching stems, this native wildflower forms large colonies over time. It takes on soft yellow tones in fall—a pretty contrast to the blue flowers of fall monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’).

Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum)
Height, 6 to 18 m; spread, 9 to 15 m. Moist, well-drained soil; full sun; water well until established. Zone 4
With its graceful, heart-shaped leaves, multiple trunks and elegant branching, the katsura is a medium to large shade tree that is relatively slow growing but well worth the wait. As the leaves turn yellow and apricot in autumn, they develop an enticing cotton-candy fragrance.

More golden choices:

  • Silver maple (Acer saccharinum, above right) Zone 3
  • Cherry birch (Betula lenta) Zone 3
  • Yellow-wood (Cladrastis kentukea) Zone 4
  • Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) Zone 4
  • Thornless honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis cvs.) Zone 4
  • Kerria (Kerria japonica) Zone 5
  • Larch (Larix laricina) Zone 1
  • Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) Zone 1
  • Weeping Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella var. pendula) Zone 5
  • ‘Crispa’ cutleaf stephanandra (Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa’) Zone 3
  • Littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata) Zone 2
  • American elm (Ulmus americana) Zone 3

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