Best trees for autumn colour

Best autumn tree for large gardensLiquidambar styraciflua

The sweet gum, from the mountains of eastern North America, is guaranteed to perform in autumn, the lobed leaves turning a beautiful crimson. Several cultivars are available; the old favourite is still ‘Worplesdon’, whose leaves turn deep purple then orange-yellow in autumn. Height (H) 10m, spread (S) 5m after 25 years: its eventual height of 25m makes it unsuitable for small gardens.
Best for chalky soil: Acer campestre On chalky soil don’t forget our medium-sized native field maple, which we see lighting up hedgerows in October and November with its bright yellow shades. Also happy in heavy clay or acid soil. H 10m, S 7m. AGM.*
Best for late autumn fruits: Sorbus commixta  The Japanese rowan is one of the last to hang on to its leaves and berries, almost into December. On a bright, sunny day the fiery orange autumn colours resemble a bonfire in the garden. H 10m, S 7m.
Best for autumn hedges: Carpinus betulus  With its yellow autumnal tints, the hornbeam is a versatile tree that tolerates chalk and acid soils, heavy clay, and hard pruning – which makes it suitable for growing as a hedge. Grown as a specimen plant, its eventual height makes it unsuitable for small gardens. AGM. H 25m, S 25m.
Best for early autumn colour: Fraxinus americana ‘Autumn Purple’  This large white ash is one of the first to change colour, with reddish-purple leaf shades, usually around the end of September. H 18m, S 12m.
Best for late autumn colour: Ginkgo biloba  Tolerant of most growing conditions, the maidenhair tree is often one of the last to lose its leaves, which turn yellow before they drop. H 10m, S 5m. AGM.
Best for a waterside location: Nyssa sylvatica 

• You can find more information and a further listing of trees in the November issue of Gardens Illustrated.