Fall Foliage And How To Obtain It

If you love fall like many of us do there are some things you can do while pruning to get the full effect of fall foliage. We have been diving in to the knowledge bombs being dropped on us by a great author named Richard Bird. We want to give you an excerpt and do a quick testimonial on how great it works. The below quotations are out of the book titled: How To Prune Trees, Shrubs, & Climbers. Author: Richard Bird


Pruning for foliage effect

Some shrubs are grown mainly for their decorative foliage. It is possible to let these grow in the normal way and just give them a light pruning: they will still produce interesting foliage and will also produce flowers, often attractive ones, such as on the smoke bush (Cotinus). If, however, they are cut right back, the leaves will be larger and often of a more intense colour, giving the plant a more striking appearance. 


What can be cut back? 

Elder (Sambucus), Rosa glauca are all good examples of shrubs that benefit from a drastic pruning regime. Eucalyptus gunnii can become a very tall tree but if cut right back and treated as a shrub it produces very interesting juvenile foliage, which is much in demand by flower arrangers. Another interesting range of shrubs are those with decorative young stems. Cornus stolonifera, C. alba and the coloured-stemmed Rebus are good examples of these. 


Pruning for foliage 

The most attractive foliage tends to appear on new growth, so all the old growth is removed, usually in late winter. This means that plenty of new shoots are produced in spring. All the plant’s energy is thus put into the production of leaves and very little or none into flowers. Hence, the leaves are big and there are no flowers. Once the shrub is established it is surprising just how much growth is put on in one year. Although cut to the ground in spring, and elder (Sambucus) can grow 2.5-3m (8-10ft) in a season. This can be repeated for as many years as you like. If you decide that you want a larger shrub or want it to flower, just stop cutting it back each year. 

It is normal to cut it to within about 30cm (12in) of the ground, but as the plant ages so the basal stems can be left longer. However, it is possible to treat it as a pollard to create a taller bush, perhaps at the back of a border where you want the foliage to be above the surrounding plants. 


Pruning for stems

Decorative, colored stems are at their best in the winter, when of course, they can be most clearly seen and add interest to an otherwise barren garden. If the shrubs are left unpruned, they become large and the stem colour is confirmed to the short growths at the tips of the branches. However, if they are regularly cut to the ground each year, they will throw up a mass of thin shoots, each a strong colour – bright yellowish green, for example, in the case of Cornus stolonifera Flaviramea’, and red in C. alba ‘Sibirica’. The shoots are cut to the ground in spring, after which they quickly shoot and are fully grown by the following winter. These shrubs are unlikely to flower. 

Some shrubs, such as the various brambles (Rubus), are grown entirely for their stems because the flowers are insignificant. The advantage of cutting these back in spring is not only to provide good stems the following winter, but also to make it much easier to week and generally tidy up around them.”


That sums it up for the content. By that it should give you an excellent idea of the quality of this book. The next time you really want to have some great Foliage get this book and look at all the pictures along with all the awesome foliage of the plants.

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