Autumn is a great time to select and plant a tree for foliage colour because now is when they’re looking their best. If you’re not sure what type of tree will suit your climate, grab a camera and drive round the local neighbourhood. Better still, talk to your neighbours about the species that are doing well in their gardens.
Autumn foliage is truly at its best in cool, mountain and inland climates, but there are plenty of trees that will put on a pretty display even in temperate coastal gardens. Reliable options for warmer zones include liquidambar, claret ash, gingko (maidenhair tree), Chinese pistachio, crepe myrtle, Japanese maples and Chinese tallow tree. Whilst those all-time autumn favourites, American maples, will often put on a pretty display in warmer areas, their truly vibrant colour variations are at their best in the cold – and the same goes for flowering cherry, scarlet oak, dogwood and tupelo varieties.
Okay, so you’ve got your tree? Now it’s time to plant it!
Dig a hole, 2-3 times the size of the rootball of your tree. Using your garden fork, loosen the soil in the base of the hole.
Lift the tree from the container and gently tease the roots on the surface of the rootball just a little.
Place the tree in the hole, orienting it to the best aspect and making sure that the top of the rootball is level with the top of the hole.
Backfill around the rootball, pressing the soil lightly and making sure that the trunk remains perfectly vertical. Do not add extra organic matter.
Water the soil thoroughly to make sure it is well settled and that no air pockets remain.
Sprinkle some cow manure around the tree, then spread a layer of mulch, leaving 5-10cm around the trunk unmulched.
Water every day for at least a month.
Tip: Your local Bunnings Warehouse will have appropriate potted specimens in stock – many complete with coloured foliage. Be sure to check the label for size, aspect and potential height – some of these trees are best off in a park, although there are also a number of container varieties that will happily sit in your courtyard.