I'll admit that fall color in the native landscape of California can be a bit drab. But urban areas can be quite colorful and there is a nice selection of plants with showy fall color that grow well here. Last week, the fall color seemed to peak so I headed out to photograph a bit of the show. We had an early cold snap this year that made colors even more vibrant.
First up is one of the tried and true trees for fall color, Sweet Gum or Liquidambar styraciflua. Fall color ranges from yellow-maroon. It is a big tree, holds onto its leaves well but should be planted away from sidewalks and lawns due to its surface roots. In fact, a big garden may be necessary for this one, because gardening underneath is practically impossible. Not ideal for the small garden unless you want to devote all your space to this tree.
Next up is my favorite for fall color tree, Pistache or Pistachia chinensis. It is the perfect size for an urban garden and works well as a street tree. I have three in my garden plus one that I planted in my next-door neighbor's parking strip. Fall color ranges from yellow to red. Select your tree in color to be sure to get one to your liking. I also like the females which have pretty red drupes that persist after the leaves have dropped.
The classic yellow fall color tree, if you're willing to wait for it to grow up to size, is Ginkgo biloba. We couldn't deal with the wait. We planted one as a street tree but took it out after it put on only 6" of growth after 3 years. They are very slow at first and then take off at some point. Regular water helps with growth the first few years. Ours didn't get that much water.
I noticed this man collecting fallen leaves at a Buddhist temple. He was carefully examining each one. I wonder what he did with them?
Of course, the maples look great.
The ornamental pears, Pyrus calleryana, were really in top form too. With a lovely range of yellow, orange and red all on one tree, you can have a veritable rainbow with this one. People seem to feel the need to plant this tree in rows but they look lovely planted individually with some Miscanthus and evergreen shrubs, among other things.
Usually grown for its fruit, it's hard to beat the fall color of Fuyu persimmon trees!
My fig even colored up nicely this year due to the early cold snap. It usually isn't as bright yellow.
And the Crepe Myrtles were really aflame with the extra cold snap too. They're usually not quite as vibrant here.
I believe these next two trees are both beech trees. Beech will give you a wonderful gold and copper fall color. More subtle, but lovely in their own right.
These elms were glowing yellow and quite impressive in their sheer mass. This guy has a ways to go. Glad I'm not him!
Wisteria vines can even give you a shot of yellow, although the color tends to be less reliable around here.
And Berberis thunbergii is great for shrub-sized fall color.
I was totally stumped as to what these small street trees were. They had excellent fall color but I just couldn't place what they were.
Until I saw this monster: Pomegranates! The street trees were just missing the fruit. I didn't have my camera with me when I saw this pomegranate so I snapped the photo with my camera. I love how it looks like a crazy yellow monster with red pomegranate eyes!