AUTUMN is all about colour, but unlike spring where flowers are the prima donnas of the garden, autumn is time for the foliage to take centre stage.
Nature's spectacle is on show with vibrant reds, golden yellows, outrageous orange hues and mysterious purple tones.
The colour in autumn foliage trees is the result of changes in the leaf brought on by climatic changes of lower temperatures, a reduction in day length and water deprivation to the leaves through a narrowing of cell walls in the leaf stem.
This process reduces the leaf's ability to photosynthesise, which lowers the production of chlorophyll that gives leaves their characteristic green colouration. As the chlorophyll disappears from the leaf other pigments are gradually revealed.
The chemicals responsible for this colour change are carotenoides, which produce the yellow and orange pigments, whereas anthocyanins produce red and purple.
Deciduous trees from the northern hemisphere that display autumn colour grow best in cooler climates, mountainous regions and cold climate zones with rich deep fertile soils to provide the best conditions for spectacular displays. There are however some varieties that will colour well even in the more temperate regions.
The temptation to plant an autumn foliage tree is one that requires thought.
Some of these trees are not suitable for the average backyard as they can grow into very large specimens such as pin oak, tulip tree or beech.
There are however, many smaller varieties of autumn foliage trees available and now is the perfect time to select trees from your local nursery that show the best colour. Japanese maples are one of the most popular autumn foliage trees and for good reason.
From specimen trees, understory planting to larger trees, container plants and even bonsai, Japanese maples are an autumn foliage plant with an enormous variety of leaf forms, colours and tree shapes which means that no matter what space restrictions apply, there will be a tree for almost any situation.
Despite their differences, the best autumn foliage trees all have one thing in common, come leaf season they turn the landscape into a kaleidoscope of colour.
Check with the nursery horticulturist on the suitability of autumn trees to your area and their mature size before making a final purchase.