Autumn fireworks

PUBLISHED: 11:38 19 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:06 20 February 2013

Autumn fireworks

Autumn fireworks

Achieve year round colour in your garden

Dazzling displays are not just confined to fireworks each autumn. A vibrant display of colour explosions is also seen as our Essex trees change into their autumn mantle

Words by Philippa Pearson

I love trees that give year-round interest from their bark, foliage, flowers, fruit or shape. Trees make a super focal point in the garden, or have a group planted together if you have the space and choose specimens that add lots of seasonal interest, including dramatic autumn colour. Maples tick all the boxes and their attractively-shaped leaves turn fiery shades of crimson and red in autumn. Good maples to try in smaller gardens include Acer griseum, the paper bark maple, which has peeling cinnamon-coloured bark, while Acer davidii, the snake bark maple, has attractive green and white striped bark. Another must for seasonal foliage colour is Liquidambar styrachiflua, or the sweet gum tree, which has spectacular rich crimson leaf colour and corky bark. The handsome star-shaped leaves are similar to some of the maple leaves and the tree makes a nice conical outline shape adding height to borders.

Autumn and winter are an ideal time to plant new trees and hedges

The Himalayan birch, Betula utilis var. jacquemonti, has stunning pure white bark creating a wow impact in the autumn and winter garden. At Marks Hall in Coggeshall you will find these planted in groups within drifts of bright red dogwood, Cornus alba Sibirica and other shrubs to create seasonal interest in the Birkett Long Millennium Walk. Created in 2000, the walk is planned to be a feast of interest from September to March with attractive coloured stems, bark, plant silhouettes and seed heads making a seasonal autumnal and winter tapestry, all carefully positioned to form stunning reflections in the adjacent lake.

Cercis canadensis Forest Pansy is another of my favourite autumn trees with beautiful heart-shaped reddish leaves, flowers in mid-spring and a lovely outline shape all year round. You can see this and many other trees and shrubs looking fabulous this autumn at Green Island Garden near Ardleigh. Foliage colour comes from maples, Liquidamber, Cotinus, Nyssa, Taxodium distichum (Swamp Cypress) and Euonymous which turn vivid shades of red, orange and yellow before dropping.

Autumn and winter are an ideal time to plant new trees and hedges as the soil is still warm and moist from the summers rain which helps roots to get established in time for spring when growth is at its peak. From November to March, bare root trees and hedging plants are available offering good value and lots of choice, so its a good time to plan your own autumn colour display for next year.

Attractive coloured stems, bark, plant silhouettes and seed heads make a seasonal autumnal and winter tapestry

Adding autumn colour

Five trees to give a fabulous display of autumn colour and add year-round interest to your garden

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

The Himalayan birch has dazzling-white bark all year round, long catkins in spring and the deep green foliage turns buttery yellow in autumn. Approximate height, 18m

Cornus kousa var. chinensis

The spreading branches have showy white bracts in early summer and stunning orange, bronze and crimson foliage in autumn. Approximate height, 6m

Crataegus persimilis Prunifolia Splendens

Large glossy leaves turn brilliant orange-red in autumn. White flowers in spring are followed by scarlet red fruits lasting through autumn. Approximate height, 10m

Liquidambar styraciflua Worplesdon

The glossy, star-shaped leaves of the sweet gum tree turn a vibrant red and scarlet in autumn. Approximate height, 25m

Malus Evereste

One of the best crab apples for spring blossom followed by red-orange-yellow fruit which lasts through and good autumn foliage colour. Approximate height, 7m

Ideas for autumn gardens to visit

Marks Hall




01376 563796

Discover woodland walks, the Millennium Walk, an 18th century Walled Garden, a visitor centre with tea room, plus a gift shop and plant centre. Open April to early November from Tuesday to Sunday, 10.30am to 5pm, and weekends from early November to December, Friday to Sunday, 10.30am to dusk

Green Island Gardens

Park Road



C07 7SP

01206 230455

Enjoy 19 acres of woodland, unusual plants and planting for year-round interest. Open until November 30, 10am to 5pm, on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Creephedge Lane





0845 265 8071

Find late autumn colour in borders, plus swathes of ornamental grasses and woodland walks. Open March to October, 10am to 6pm, and November to February, 10am to 4pm

King & Co

The Tree Nursery Ltd

Dunmow Road


Nr Braintree


CM77 6WF

01376 340469

A real Essex specialist, King & Co has a wide selection of trees as well as bare root hedging.

Gardening writer Philippa Pearson is a RHS award-winning garden designer. Visit or contact her on 01767 651253

Latest from the Essex Life