University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article


Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont


Vermont in autumn is famous. The red splendor of its maple-covered hills attracts Vermonters and visitors alike who will spend hours driving through the countryside to look at the colorful foliage.

You can have some of this brilliance in your own backyard without waiting years for newly planted maple trees to reach maturity. Numerous kinds of small trees, shrubs, and vines provide spectacular color while adding to your overall home landscaping scheme.

You can create an attractive planting in the front or back corner of your yard. Use several small trees or tall shrubs surrounded by a greater number of smaller shrubs to give stability. Unless you are creating a formal landscape, use uneven numbers of each kind of plant, such as three of one and five of another. This makes an informal and natural arrangement.

For the front or back section of your lawn, try three Amur maple (Acer ginnala) interplanted with nine Japanese barberrys. Or plant an especially nice Amur maple as a small specimen tree.

The Amur maple, a shrubby tree with several stems, grows about 15 to 20 feet tall and has brilliant scarlet to deep orange leaves in autumn. Plant Amur maples nine to 12 feet apart. Space the barberry five to six feet apart en masse among the maples. Then cover the ground around the plants with two or three inches of mulch such as pine needles or bark. This will unify the whole planting and give an immediate effect.

Other shrubs with attractive leaves in the fall are rugosa rose, smoke bush (Cotinus), Siberian dogwood (Cornus alba), and double bridal wreath spirea (Spiraea prunifolia). Pinkshell azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi) is another good choice as it's hardy to 25 degrees F below zero in Vermont. Its red leaves in fall add color to its spring beauty of light pink flowers.

Cover your chain link or woven wire fence with Virginia creeper. A vigorous vine, its scarlet-red leaves give a rich, bold look to your surroundings in the fall. A vine-covered fence also makes a good background for a flower border, perhaps of fall mums.

Fall color can be as close as your own backyard. For more ideas, observe plants along the road and in your neighborhood this fall.

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