(Mike Lascelle photo) (From top left): Nandina ‘Bonfire’, Leucothoe ‘Scarletta’, Pyracantha ‘Mohave’ and Skimmia ‘Rubinetta’.

Gardening: Fall colour that lasts

Four broadleaf evergreens which provide a long-lasting display.

Autumn is by far my favourite season of the year, not only because the moderate temperatures are comfortable for working outdoors, but it is also the time we reap the benefits of our edible gardens and enjoy nature’s fireworks in the form of fall foliage.

Seemingly ordinary green trees and shrubs, such as Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ and burning bush (Euonymus alatus), burst into brilliant carmine and rose-red hues, while the birch and ginkgo transition to that beautiful butter yellow.

There are other benefits to this season and one that I have been enjoying daily on my morning cycle is the smell of burnt sugar or caramel corn that the Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum) emit at this time of year, although I have to admit that, like the fall foliage display, it is a rather fleeting pleasure.

Of course those colours only show up once the days get shorter and the green chlorophyll in leaves begins to break down, unmasking underlying chemicals such as carotenoids (oranges), flavonoids (yellows) and anthocyanins (purples and reds), which are responsible for fall colour. The only problem being that a slight change in weather, water moisture or pH can diminish their display, bringing a hasty end to a season that we would all like to prolong.

So I thought I would introduce you to four broadleaf evergreens that provide a long-lasting display of fall foliage, buds or berries, often lasting throughout the winter. The only proviso I’ll make here is that with the exception of new growth, they are often a boring green during the summer, but quickly morph into garden features with the cooler weather.

Heavenly Bamboo – Nandina domestica has just one major problem, that being its common name, heavenly bamboo, which denotes to most gardeners that it is as invasive as its namesake. The truth being that this plant is not invasive in Canada and behaves as a clumping broadleaf evergreen shrub. The finely cut foliage does somewhat resemble bamboo but that’s where the similarities end. The species is a large shrub, averaging 2m tall, but in my opinion your best bets are the compact cultivars such as ‘Moon Bay’, ‘Gulf Stream’ and the newer ‘Bonfire’, all of which grow to 60-75cm tall and transform in autumn with brilliant reddish-purple highlights. ‘Firepower’ has coarser foliage, a rounded growth habit and shifts to a brilliant rose-red in the colder weather, retaining it throughout the winter.

Japanese Skimmia – A common and reliable shade shrub, these durable plants have glossy green foliage that works well in cold season planters. Females will bear bright red berries for much of the winter, while the males provide a dazzling show of flower buds that persist until March, when they open to fragrant white flowers. Two male cultivars in particular are worth seeking out as both ‘Rubella’ and ‘Rubinetta’ produce abundant dark red buds even at a young age.

Leucothoe – A vastly underrated evergreen shrub suited for partial shade exposures, both Leucothoe fontanesiana and axillaris take on deep red to purplish highlights with the onset of cooler weather and retain this until spring. Cultivars worth seeking out include the dwarf ‘Scarletta’ (new growth is also red), ‘Little Flames’ and the taller ‘Rainbow’, which also has creamy-yellow highlights.

Pyracantha – The common name for this evergreen climber is well-earned, as Firethorn irritates the skin with every scratch. That said it does make it useful for training espalier-style along fences or near gates where climbing is discouraged. The bright red (‘Cherry Berry’), Orange (‘Mohave’) or Yellow berries (‘Saphyr Yellow’) last for months and are much favoured by Cedar Waxwings.

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).

Just Posted

Maple Ridge chef tops in B.C. for agriculture in the classroom

Chef Brian Smith named the B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year

Flames drop to eighth in PJHL

Ridge loses two games over the weekend

Man known to frequent Maple Ridge wanted by Langley RCMP

An arrest warrant is out for Bryce Telford for allegedly impersonating a police officer

New Maple Ridge council has old problem: Albion flats

Staff asking for politicians to decide direction

Canada’s archive buys rare book that hints at Nazi plans for North America

The 1944 book may have served as a blueprint for a Nazi purge

B.C. hospital apologizes for veteran’s five-day hallway stay

Clinical director of Victoria General Hospital says case of retired veteran ‘definitely excessive’

Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

Plecas spoke to media at the opening of a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Abbotsford Wednesday

Advocate hopes B.C. legislature scandal leads to more transparency

‘Depressing’ that it takes a scandal to inspire freedom of information reform, says Sara Neuert

‘Dr. Lipjob’ avoids jail, gets 30-day suspended sentence

She will have to serve the 30 days in prison if she commits a breach during her two-year’s probation

Ex-Mountie involved in Taser death at Vancouver airport sues government

Kwesi Millington claims he acted in accordance with RCMP training

47 men arrested by Vancouver police for allegedly seeking sex with teenage girls

Seven of those arrested have been charged as part of a two-month operation

Surrey farmers taking stock of revamped Canada Food Guide

Products that were once big at the table — like meat and dairy — have been put on the back-burner

Surrey Pretrial inmate lodges human rights complaint for not being fed kosher food

Inmate claims denial of her request for kosher diet violates Section 8 of the Human Rights Code

Most Read