Autumn is a time for color, lots of color. Just mentioning the word autumn evokes a sense of feeling of colors, of sweeping reds and oranges, brilliant yellows, and glowing bronzes. But what of the color purple? The color of royalty? It can be difficult at best to find something purple or lavender in the autumn landscape, and it will be even more difficult at Emerald Ash Borers take down the once mighty White Ash trees.
It is important for nurserymen and women of the future to develop and discover trees and shrubs with purple fall color, to replace the disappearing ash. Finding purple the rest of the year is not so hard, with tulips and crocus and a myriad of purples in the flowers of summer. But autumn purples are the dark denizens of a world colored red and orange.
In the shrub world, purple may be limited to berries and viburnums, with only an occasional other member showing up. Doublefile, Arrowhead, and some Korean Spice viburnums color nicely with purple in the fall, but may just as often be red and orange. I like the brilliantly colored, K-State purple berries of the American Beautyberry. They linger through the winter, a cheery color among the brown hush of winter. Sweetspire (Itea) will also sometimes color with bits of purple mingled among the reds and oranges.
It seems only the American Sweetgum can rival the white ashes for their fall colors. Purples mixed with reds and oranges alight on this tall tree. Unfortunately, the sweetgum has rather messy fruit, and until a true sterile cultivar is developed, we may not see this tree becoming popular in city landscapes.
There are a few perennials that bloom late and can carry their purple blossoms past freeze and frost for us to enjoy in the true autumn of falling leaves. Some asters and mums may yet be blooming in November along with the purple salvias and the last of the toad lilies. Plumbago may also color up in fall with hues of purple or red.
Look through your yard and see what colors you can find. How much purple do you see?