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updated: 9/16/2013 12:26 PM

Art in the garden: Shrubs offer parade of fall color

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By Diana Stoll
The Planterís Palette

Fall is the season to revel in the magnificent colors of changing leaves. Maples and oaks lead the parade but there are some shrubs with outstanding fall color, and their smaller stature makes them easy to fit into most landscapes. Many also offer spring or summer flowers and late summer fruit. Consider planting some of these specimens in your landscape.

Virginia sweetspire is a native shrub with multi-season interest. Its dark green leaves turn reddish purple or scarlet in fall. Fragrant white flowers bloom in June or July. This shrub has a loose, pendulous habit and reaches 3 to 5 feet in height and width. Though it is native to wet areas, it is adaptable to most soils and grows well in sun or partial shade.

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Dwarf fothergilla is another small shrub with gorgeous fall color. Leathery bluish-green leaves change to yellow, orange and scarlet as cool temperatures set in. Fragrant, bottlebrush-like white flowers appear in spring.

Perfect for a foundation planting, dwarf fothergilla grows 2 to 4 feet tall and wide. It thrives in moist, slightly acidic soil and grows well in sun or partial shade, but its best fall color will be achieved in full sun.

Clethra is similar in its soil and light requirements. Its glossy dark green leaves turn a brilliant shade of gold in fall. Vanilla Spice grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide and boasts panicles of pure white, fragrant flowers in late summer. Ruby Spice is similar in size but sports rose-pink flowers. Hummingbird is the baby of the family -- just 3 feet tall and wide -- with creamy white flowers.

Red chokeberry is a popular choice for hedges. This upright, 5 to 8 foot tall shrub offers ornamental value in fall color and its glossy red fruit. Brilliantissima is especially lovely with dark, lustrous green leaves that turn to brilliant red.

The fall color of black chokeberry is muted red with purplish-black fruit. Both varieties have small white flowers in spring.

Lilacs are not often considered as shrubs with fall color, but Miss Kim is an exception to her family's rule. Generally growing about 5 feet tall and wide, Miss Kim shows off her lilac-purple fragrant flowers in May. The purplish hue of her leaves and stem deepen in the fall and look especially attractive near late-blooming perennials like asters and sedums. Lilacs are best grown in full sun for the best flowering.

Witch hazels are another shrub to choose for fall color. Vernal witch hazel, one of the first shrubs to bloom in early spring, grows 6 to 10 feet tall and offers golden fall color. Common witch hazel grows much taller and blooms in fall often showing off its flowers with its golden yellow foliage. Witch hazels grow best in partial shade.

One of the best viburnums for fall color is Viburnum carlesii or Koreanspice viburnum. Many people choose this plant in spring when its white flowers are filling the air with their perfume. They are delighted in fall when the dark green leaves change to wine-red. A great choice for smaller gardens, Koreanspice viburnum only reaches 4 to 5 feet in height and width. Viburnums grow best in full sun to light shade.

• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040, ext. 2, or visit planterspalette.com.

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