Colorful Fall with Mike Darcy

November 6, 2017

fall leavesI don’t know if the fall leaf color I am seeing throughout Portland is more spectacular than previous years, but it is unbelievably beautiful. Throughout my neighborhood and others that I visit, the deciduous trees are ablaze with color. It constantly reminds me how fortunate we are to be living in an area where we have distinct seasons. Just in my neighborhood, there are many trees showing fall color and here are a few of my favorites, at this moment!

Many Japanese maples provide a display of fall color and depending on which maple it is, the color can vary greatly. While I have several Japanese maples, and I like them all, a favorite would have to be Acer palmatum ‘Fairyhair’. I have this plant in a pot on our deck and while it looks good at any season, at this time of year the leaves turn red and with its delicate narrow leaf, it looks as though the tree is on fire. Another maple that I would have to mention is Acer griseum, also known as Paperbark Maple. While Acer griseum has beautiful fall color, the bonus this tree offers is the spectacular bark. When the leaves have fallen, the reddish-brown bark on the trunk is visible with paper thin pieces then peeling away. This is a beautiful winter interest plant.

A neighbor recently called and said that I should walk by her house to see the fall leaf color of her Stewartia psuedocamellia (Japanese Stewartia). The entire tree was covered in reddish-orange to yellow leaves. This is another tree that is also known for the showy bark. The bark on this tree flakes off and reveals patches of green, gray, cream and rust. It is a beautiful tree to have a spotlight at the base to shine up into the branches at night.

Nyssa sylvatica (Black Tupelo) is another superb tree for fall color. We do not often see it in gardens perhaps because it is a large tree reaching heights of 40 feet or more. However, in the fall, this tree puts on a show of color that is hard to beat. The leaves often turn yellow or orange and then bright red before dropping. Black Tupelo can survive in compacted soils with poor drainage which makes it an ideal choice for some urban areas.

Cotinus coggygria (Smoke Tree) can be kept as a shrub by hard pruning in the winter or if not pruned will grow to a tree to about 15 feet. Due to space limitations, I keep mine as a shrub, and because of hard pruning (I cut mine back to about 18 inches because it is in a pot and I want to keep small enough to remain on our deck.  The “hard pruning” keeps it a manageable size), it rarely blooms but I grow it for the foliage. The cultivar ‘Grace’ has bluish purple foliage all year and now has turned to purple-red.

The selections that I have mentioned are barely scratching the surface of plants we have for fall color. Now is the time to drive around your neighborhood or visit an arboretum to get an idea of the many choices available. Plus, this is an ideal time to plant.

Places to go to see fall color that I would suggest (better hurry it won’t last much longer):

  • Hoyt Arboretum in Washington Park:
    • Cost: Free
    • Open daily 8-5pm
    • Visitor Center Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-4pm, Weekends 11am-3pm
    • Family-friendly. There are two miles of trails suitable for wheelchairs, baby strollers, and visitors who appreciate firm footing. Leashed dogs welcome (must pick up after them). Bicycles are only allowed on paved roads. No fires, camping, or drones. No foraging; leave plants, animals, and other natural features for all visitors to enjoy.
    • See more Hoyt Arboretum Park Regulations here.
  • Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park:
    • Cost: $13.50-$18.95, kids under 5 are free
    • Monday: Noon-4pm, Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-4pm
    • A portion of the Japanese Garden is ADA accessible. No pets, outside food or drink (excluding water). Must silence phones and refrain from talking.
    • See more Japanese Garden Etiquette here.
  • Leach Botanical Garden in Portland (6704 SE 122nd , Portland):
    • Cost: Free (Contributions are encouraged)
    • Monday Closed, Tuesday-Saturday 9am-4pm, Sunday 1pm-4pm
    • Family-friendly. The Manor House and East Terrace are all wheelchair accessible. No pets or bicycles.
    • See more Leach Botanical Garden Etiquette here.
  • Garden at Elk Rock at Bishop Close (11800 SW Military Lane, Portland):
    • Cost: Free (donation box in visitor’s center).
    • Open daily 8-5pm (except Christmas).
    • No restrooms. No picnicking or bicycles. No dogs allowed. Paths are gravel and contain no steps. Children under 16 must be supervised by an adult.
  • The Oregon Garden in Silverton
    • Fall Cost: $12 or less, click here for details.
    • Fall Hours: Thursday – Sunday 10am – 4pm
    • Family-friendly. The Garden is ADA compliant. Leashed dogs welcome (must pick up after them). No bicycles on garden paths.
    • See more Oregon Garden Etiquette here.