Vermont Garden Journal: Unusual Foliage Plants

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I’m Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. Ahh, fall in Vermont! The maples, ash, and beech trees are ablaze. It’s hard to beat Mother Nature’s show, but if you’re looking to add some unusual shrubs and trees to your yard and particularly want some with fall foliage color, I’ve got some ideas for you.

It’s hard to beat the burning bush for fall color, but it’s considered an invasive species, so is being fazed out of the nursery industry. Certainly other worthy alternatives would be the American Cranberry viburnum, sumac and blueberries for fall color. But for something different try aronia. 

Aronia is a 4 to 6 foot tall native shrub that produces black berries in summer and has beautiful red and orange fall color. It’s a tough little shrub that grows in full to part sun on most types of soil. The berries, by the way, are high in anti-oxidants and make a great juice, if you sweeten it a bit.

If yellow is your fall color of choice, try fothergilla. This zone 5 shrub grows 6 to 8 feet tall with attractive, fragrant white flowers in spring. But the fall show of bright yellow leaves has fothergilla brightening up any landscape.

For trees, nothing beats a sugar maple for fall color, but in zone 5 areas the Japanese Stewartia can be a close second. This slow growing Asian tree grows 20 to 30 feet tall in an oval form, has white flowers in early summer and amazing fall foliage color. The leaves turn a mix of yellow, orange, red and purple, bedazzling your eyes. Plus, the bark flakes off and the trunk looks like a sycamore tree adding winter interest as well.  

Now for this week’s tip! It’s garlic planting time. Plant big cloves to produce bug bulbs. Save small cloves for eating or growing wet garlic (Garlic harvested in spring when still green). Plant cloves 6 inches apart and 2 inches deep on raised beds amended with compost.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I’ll be talking about species tulips. For now, I’ll be seeing you in the garden!

Japanese Stewartia

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