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Oh, October. So dreamy, with the leaves all ablaze. And over much too quickly. If there’s one month where I’d like to press pause and enjoy it a little longer, it’s October. Second best to being able to freeze time is planting more of this stuff at home, so there’s more time to admire it.

Because there’s no such thing as too much fall color, I keep a running wish list whenever I see spectacular fall foliage I must have. This year has been bananas. So much jaw dropping, vibrant color everywhere. We’ve had a pretty dry October in Portland, so the leaves have been sticking around longer, and those that have fallen are dry and crispy.

In no particular order, because I haven’t the heart to rank one plant better than another, these are a dozen dazzlers that made the list.

Cotinus ‘Grace’

grandmother of all cotinus grace and grass
There is always this debate with Cotinus. To cut it back for more impressive foliage, or leave it alone for those famous smokebush flowers. I think the Gossler Farms specimen has me convinced that cutting it back to 6′ each spring is the way to go.

cotinus grace

Quercus dentata ‘Carl Ferris Miller’

quercus cf miller

I was on a mission to positively identify the awesome little oak Loree spotted in her recent Gossler visit. Quercus dentata ‘Carl Ferris Miller’ it is, and it is gorgeous in its fall finery.

Quercus pontica

Quercus pontica

Quercus pontica also jumped out at me while I was on my oak hunt at the nursery. Big, leathery, serrated leaves.

Stewartia monadelpha

stewartia and witch hazel

I am feeling really clever indeed, for accidentally planting my Stewartia monadelpha so close to my mystery Witch Hazel (Hamamelis). This year especially, the stewartia has turned such an intense blackish purple, against that gold. One point for me in the beautiful plant combination department.

Stewartia gemmata

stewartia gemmata

Stewartias are such great trees, doing their part year round with their white flowers, mottled bark, and stunning fall colors. The Stewartia gemmata was putting on quite the show in the Gossler greenhouse.

stewartia pseudocamellia pewter
As was Stewartia pseudocamellia ‘Pewter.’

Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’

rhus tiger eyes
I go back and forth on whether I need a Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’. On the one hand, it’s stunning. And on the other hand, is it too obvious? Too perfect? Too vibrant? Just kidding, those are good things. What a brilliant color echo this gardener has going with their house, and the dark purple berberis as a backdrop. Gold and purple. Gold and purple. Never gets old.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

hamamelis diane
All the Witch Hazels are gorgeous, but Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ is a real show off this year.

Fothergilla major

fothergilla major

Big trees tend to get a lot of attention for fall color, and rightly so, they are spectacular. But there is no acreage required for a fiery foliage. The lovely thing about the smaller plants with fall color is that you can them admire up close. And there’s always room to tuck in one more.

This mature Fothergilla major in the Gossler display gardens keeps its leaves and glorious mossy bark right at eye level, and I approve.

Fothergilla gardenii ‘Blue Mist’

fothergilla blue mist
And Fothergilla gardenii ‘Blue Mist’ showing off its stunning foliage in the greenhouse.

Nandina domestica ‘Filamentosa’

nandina domestica filamentosa
And just to prove there’s always room for more fall color, this stringy leaved Nandina shifts its evergreen leaves to shades of red when cooler weather arrives. It’s so petite, surely you can find a couple feet of bare soil somewhere that could be improved with a tangle of delicate red leaves. Could I resist taking one of these home with me? No, I could not.

This is what makes fall plant shopping so important, in my book. Some of these plants wouldn’t have turned my head in spring, but they make such a dramatic difference in the garden come fall.

Hope you’re enjoying the fall color in your world.

Happy planting!