Planting Trees with Fall Color in Mind
Loving A Fall State of Mind
In the Bay Area we have a tendency to choose trees that are evergreen, or have showy Spring and Summer blooms. While these are gorgeous options (like the beautiful California Lilac), some of us may prefer to craft our landscape to really explode during the Fall and early Winter months. If that sounds like the case for you, there are some fabulous trees that thrive in our climate, and their coloring will remind you of the desirable Northeast foliage.
California Native Options
Most trees with popping Fall color are transplants to California, but we do have a few native trees that can roll with the big dogs from the East. Whether you are looking for reds, yellows, or oranges, West Coast native trees will not disappoint!
Vine Maples are native to the Northwest region, and provide that explosion of of orange-red and yellow during the Fall months. If grown in part-shade conditions, this multi-trunked tree can reach heights of 25 feet. Out in the open, the Vine Maple will remain stockier, but will have denser foliage and a single trunk. Regardless, this pretty tree takes up a smaller footprint, and so it is a good choice for landscapes with more limited space. In a moist spot, you will find the Vine Maple very easy to grow, usually at a quick rate of one to two feet per year.
There are many varieties of Serviceberry trees, nearly one for every state in the nation. California's native is the Amelanchier pallida, but there is little visual differences throughout the species. The best thing about the Serviceberry is that they are a quadruple threat! (In the best way possible) In addition to the clearly beautiful Fall colors, they have a stunning reddish silver-black bark that is still beautiful when bare, explode into a cloud of fragrant white blooms in the Spring, and bare fruit similar to blueberries in the Summer. All that and they need very little pruning. How can you say no to this amazing tree?
The California Sycamore is a lovely tree to bring in to compliment the more red tones of the previous specimens with its gold and orange Fall foliage. This is a much larger tree, reaching heights of 75 feet - it is a pretty fast grower as well, gaining two to three feet per year. Its trunk branches off several times, creating a very full compliment of foliage bearing branches. In addition to being a beautiful tree, it is also a haven for birds and butterflies!
Non-Native Options for the NorCal Climate
While we may try to include as many California natives in our landscaping, it is also nice to branch out to other varieties - of course taking care to avoid plants and trees that are harmful to our region (Such as the Northern Red Oak because of the proliferation of sudden oak disease. You can read more about that here.) Here are a couple options from outside the Bay that will grow well and provide Fall color.
The American Sweetgum tree is native to the Southeast, but grows well in most temperate climates - like the Bay Area! There are several varieties available and they differ in Fall foliage coloring, ranging from deep aubergine purple and crimsons to light pinks and deep gold. Another larger tree at top heights of 75 feet is better suited for larger landscapes, not only because of its height and breadth, but also because of its wider root system. Unlike some of the previous trees mentioned, sweetgums are not particularly drought tolerant, and will require regular watering. They like full sun as well, but the broad canopy it provides will give great shade for your outdoor space.
For some beautiful golden Fall color, the Ginkgo Biloba tree is a great option, especially if you are in the cooler parts of the Bay Area. Unfortunately, these pretty trees have a bad rap for having a very unpleasant scent, (The female trees grow a berry with a smell most would prefer to avoid! ) but this is easily avoided by planting male seedlings only. The mature trees reach heights of 100 feet, though most settle closer to 70 feet, and usually around 30 feet wide. Even better is that this tree is rather tolerant to pests and disease, and has an exceptionally long life, so you can enjoy this lovely tree for many decades.
Looking at these images, I can easily imagine myself on my back deck, feet kicked up with a hot cup of coffee - gazing away at the deep, stunningly beautiful colors of Fall - And people say we don't get seasons here in California!
Do you have any other tree varieties that hit it big during the Fall?