Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Native trees for autumn colour  (Read 2975 times)


  • Joined Oct 2012
Native trees for autumn colour
« on: November 05, 2015, 08:54:10 pm »
 :wave: hi, we are 1000 ft high and exposed to elements, we have a semi sheltered area in which we wish to plant native trees / shrubs primarily for autumn colour. Suggestions welcome, there are rowan trees around which seem to thrive!

oor wullie

  • Joined Jun 2012
  • Strathnairn
Re: Native trees for autumn colour
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2015, 07:47:07 am »
Rowan and Birch are the obvious things that will thrive no matter how hard the conditions.
If the ground is wet then Alder will do well although it is not so dramatic in its autumn colours.

If your soil is ok then you might be surprised what will grow.  Upland oak woods used to be a lot more common than they are now (due to them being cut down 100s of years ago).
Wych Elm should grow well at that height, so should Aspen.

Don't expect an upland oak to end up like a huge English oak, more like the Atlantic oak forests of the west, and it will grow very slowly.

In sheltered spots Hazel will give thick foliage and bird cherry add some colour.

Holy is a native that will survive in the hills (I can see some growing wild on the hillside behind my house in an exposed position at over 300m) which gives a nice green through the winter - but it grows very slowly.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Native trees for autumn colour
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2015, 08:27:29 am »
Our local supplier had a wonderful website, full of advice about which trees do well where and so on.  But the website is being reconstructed at the mo :(.  However I found this : Native trees for exposed windy sites and autumn colour

My choices would include Bird Cherry, Field Maple, Larch.

That list doesn't include Spindle, which has tremendous autumn colour - but both leaves and berries are poisonous so not for where livestock might get.

I'd also enquire whether Crab Apple would grow.

And I'd include some Dogwood.  If you plant them where the sun can reach, the stems are a rich red.  The leaf colour is good too.
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Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Native trees for autumn colour
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2015, 08:28:45 am »
If it can be given a little shelter field maple has good Autumn colour and dogwood, although a tall shrub rather than a tree, will turn an unusual soft maroon, with black berries.  The sessile oak is a native whose leaves turn vibrant red in Autumn.


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  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
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  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Native trees for autumn colour
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2015, 01:21:47 pm »
Whereabouts are you?

We are at a similar elevation and exposure as you are, in the south of Scotland.  We have planted native trees and hedging all around our land, and right now we have some splendid colours.  As well as colours, we have planted for wildlife, so trees and shrubs which have berries, or early pollen, or dense growth for nesting and roosting.
A mix of evergreens and deciduous trees works well. 

We have included some Scots pine which gives green all year round and pine cones, also holly for the berries - that doesn't do well in boggy bits.

I agree about the cornus - there are various kinds with red, yellow or green stems, and flowers in spring/summer, berries in winter.

Field maple is lovely now, with beautiful luminous yellow leaves, both on the trees and on the ground (we don't remove fallen leaves).  For gorgeous red autumn colours I think you would need to go non-native.......

One nobody has mentioned is Mirabelle (myrobalan or cherry plum) - you can buy bare rooted saplings from bulk nurseries for peanuts compared to those from fruit tree catalogues.  Fruit is either red or yellow, and the birds will clear the upper unreachable branches for you.  It's another golden yellow leafed tree in autumn, very light and clear.

Spindle, as mentioned, is very colourful, with weird artificial looking pink fruit which split to show bright orange seeds, and red leaves.  It does grow very slowly and remains quite small, ideal for your lower storey.  I didn't know about the toxic aspect, but our sheep haven't died, and the hens don't touch them.

Bird cherry and crab apples have red leaves, and again appeal to wildlife too.

Even some of the willows have good leaf colour, mainly yellow in autumn, with the advantage of very early pollen appearing at the ideal time for newly emerged queen bumble bees to feast on, and build up their strength after the winter.

I would include hawthorn, for various reasons, including flowers, fruit, perfume, nest sites, roosting sites and autumn colour - yellow.  Hawthorn also doesn't lose its leaves all at the same time - right now we have some bare and some still fully green, so spreading its usefulness.

Even where the leaves are not splendid in autumn, berries can be, for example elder, rowan and wild rose hips.

Our hedges and coppices are now quite well grown and have changed the microclimate totally.  Instead of arctic ice particles blowing in sideways and cutting us off at the ankles, we are protected to a great extent from all directions.

There don't seem to be many really good reds mentioned.  One I am amazed at is blueberry.  I know they're not native, but worth planting somewhere.

So my advice is to plant for colour and usefulness all year round, not just in the autumn.  Wildlife loves pollen in the spring, nesting sites for birds, perfume (unbeatable is Balm of Gilead, quite a tall tree but the smell starts before the leaves appear in spring, and will spread downwind for a large distance), blossom, fruit, colour, shelter.
A variety of heights increases the density of the trees as a wind barrier and roosting/nesting site.

modified to add - I see you have doubled up this thread - it only needs to be in one place or it becomes muddled.

« Last Edit: November 06, 2015, 09:54:03 pm by Fleecewife »
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  • Joined Oct 2012
Re: Native trees for autumn colour
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2015, 06:54:38 pm »

Thank you all for being so generous in terms of advice, expertise and time given to respond to my request, it is very greatly appreciated. I apologise for the double thread - also on coffee lounge, it wasn't my intention to create confusion. I very much look forward to planning and planting my project - informed by your suggestions


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