Marianne Binetti

5 choices for brilliant fall color

I think there is a reason we see witches with brooms at the end of October. It is a reminder to take an old broom out to the porch and patio and make a clean sweep of the spider webs and egg clusters deposited near your doorways.

Spiders are good for the garden, and using a broom to collect them means you can wipe the mother spiders along with their egg sacs onto tree trunks or shrubs in the landscape. This prevents the wild screams provoked by spiders that wander into sinks and bathtubs searching for water on dark winter nights.

While you are making the porch and patio tidy for winter, go ahead and uproot any frost damaged annual plants from pots and garden beds and add these to the compost pile. This trick will be a compost treat in the spring.

There is still time to add trees and shrubs to the landscape. If your autumn garden is lacking in fiery fall beauty, make these plants your fall field goals and score more colorful yardage:

‘October Glory’ Red Maple Tree (Acer rubrum): This spectacular maple will grow into a large shade tree so give it plenty of room. It needs full sun for best leaf color, and the advantage of choosing this maple is that the leaves not only turn bright orange fading to purple but they will stay on the tree much longer than other maples.

‘Red Sunset’ Maple Tree (Acer rubrum): This is the best maple tree for early fall color. The green leaves turn an intense orange, and then red, making this tree a real show stopper. Give it room because it may start out slow but will eventually grow to 40 feet or more.

Crimson Queen Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’): This lovely dwarf tree has delicate finely cut leaves and low branching that give it a weeping look. It will still grow to 10 feet tall, and as wide, but the compact size and small leaves make this a beautiful tree with crimson leaves to use in a lawn or near an entry.

Dwarf Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus ‘Compacta’): This is the most asked about shrub every autumn as the foliage turns such a bright red color. It really does resemble a bush on fire. Do not let the “dwarf” name fool you as all forms of the burning bush will spread to six feet or more, and this shrub does not take well to pruning. It needs full sun but little care once established, and a hedge made from the burning bush will stop traffic and prompt calls to the fire department. If you drive along local highways this is the bright red shrub you see planted along sunny slopes and in traffic dividers, but it does seem to have suffered this summer in the drought. Like all newly planted trees and shrubs, be sure to provide extra water during summer dry spells for at least two years until the roots are well established.

Sedum Autumn Joy and Friends: (Sedum spectabile and hybrids): The favorite, the best and the most beautiful perennial for fall gardens, these are drought resistant plants that do well in sun or partial shade and thrive in containers or open beds. Plant these upright, late blooming perennials near your red foliage trees and shrubs for a beautiful autumn display garden. The most common variety is sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ but local nurseries now also offer more colorful versions including ‘Frosty Morn’ sedum with blue green leaves and pale pink blooms, the fiery rosy pink ‘Autumn Fire’ Stonecrop sedum and the variety sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’ with rose red blooms. All grow to two feet tall with large flat flower panicles that attract bees and butterflies in late summer.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at