Getting Red, Orange, and Yellow in Your Fall Landscape


The fall colors we have been experiencing as the trees’ leaves changed to red, orange, and yellow this year in Connecticut have been so spectacular, well – it is nearly impossible to put into words.

There have been moments when driving where you may have been blindsided by a turning in a curve when you see the beauty of it all. A street that is ordinary in your hometown has suddenly turned into a light show of vibrant eye candy, and you may have pulled over to take photos, but many times, those photos do not capture what you see through your eyes or through your polarized sunglasses against the clear blue skies and bright sun.

However, this month, a friend posted a photo which blew me away. Not only were the trees covered in the mixed colors of fall, but the ground was as well. Vibrant reds from low growing wild blueberry bushes provided an affect one doesn’t often see – unless you live in Maine, which is where my friend resides.

PJ Walter Photography

This friend, PJ Walter, is a person I met many years ago when my husband and I stayed at his inn which he co-owns with his partner, Frank. When we met PJ and Frank, the bond was instantaneous – Let’s just say, they are great people with a wonderful inn located in Rockland, Maine, called the LimeRock Inn. Check their place out – Steve and I highly recommend it for visits in that region, which we have done many times when attending the North Atlantic Blues Fest in summer.

During our first time staying at the LimeRock Inn, PJ did something special for us. He knew Steve and I were taking a sail boat ride in the afternoon, so he hiked out to one of his viewing spots and took a photo of us on the boat as it was sailing by. We didn’t know he was there, so when we arrived to our room that evening, the photo was already printed and matted for us sitting on our bedroom side table – what a surprise and gesture by PJ.

This is how we were introduced to PJ Walter Photography, and many of his works are hanging in the hallways of the LimeRock Inn for their guests to enjoy. PJ has the skill of capturing the magic of mid-coast Maine. He was posting photos this month of various Maine landscapes, and stating along the way how Maine’s fall colors were incredible and probably the best around New England.

One day, I responded by posting, “The colors are not too shabby in Connecticut either.”

But then on October 16th – PJ posted this brilliant photo below. It blew my mind.

It also blew the minds of many of his followers and friends. Comments were posted, such as:

“Looks like an impressionist painting.”


“That hill is on fire, yo!”

“Interesting that the colors are in the ground cover as well as the trees.
Do you know what gives it the red color?”

PJ responded to the question by providing a link explaining why the ground color is painted in red (see Wild About Blueberries blog), and also gave a hint of the location, posting it as: Route 1 just north of Bucksport. 

His photo was shared over 55 times and a local television station in Maine shared it one evening. One may argue he should have kept it so well guarded to avoid a non-credit situation, but how can one not share such a beautiful sight? We are so glad he posted this photo and many others this season which has been particularly colorful from here to Maine. To see more of his professional photography – be sure to visit his website, PJ Walter Photography.

Low Growing Reds

As PJ pointed out to his fellow followers, the reds on the ground are wild low-growing blueberry bushes. Many people desire the red color in their fall landscape, and for years, the burning bush shrub (Euonymus alatus) was recommended for its bright scarlet color in autumn, but this plant is invasive. It spreads aggressively in the woodlands (where it stays green in coloring due to mostly shade situations) and overtakes areas, out competing local native plants. Blueberry bushes are the perfect alternative – giving your fruit in summer, and as you can see from PJ’s photo, the bonus of providing a powerhouse of red to scarlet coloring in the fall season, especially this year. While these shrubs are wild and low in Maine’s natural landscape – many blueberry shrubs can be purchased here in Connecticut which grow taller, from 3-6 feet. There are highbush, lowbush, and rabbiteye blueberries – and as long as you plant them in acidic soil they desire, blueberries are rewarding. Ask your local nurseries about them next time you visit to browse their offerings.

Taller Growing Reds

Another good option is planting a Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) to get red color in your fall landscape. There are many varieties, heights, and styles to choose from, but what you may not notice is the red coloring of Japanese maple leaves intensify in the late fall, turning to a glowing red. Some cultivars you may be familiar with are the ‘Bloodgood’ maple which grows to about 15′ in 15 years, or ‘Crimson Queen’ with a more delicate, weeping form, and many more. Ask your local nursery staff to point them out to you next spring so you can capture some of that red in your landscape in time for next fall season. Japanese Maples like partial sun or filtered sun locations in moist, fertile, well-drained soil, and range in heights from six to twenty feet, so if you want a high level of red, plant one of these along with some blueberry bushes, and you are in business. And don’t forget, many smaller Japanese Maples are gorgeous in containers on your deck, they serve as elegant focal points, and may be protected in the winter months in garages to be returned outside the following season – something I did for several years with one of my smaller maples until I decided to plant it permanently in the landscape.

Another Red – Sourwood Trees

Another red tree, which I just have to mention because I find them beautiful, is the Sourwood tree (also called Sorrel Tree, Oxydendrum arboreum). It grows long drooping clusters of bell-shaped white tiny flowers in summer, which I think are splendid, and in the fall, the leaves turn a plum-red color. You can see the remnants of the white flowers against the red when you observe the tree up-close. It is a slow-growing tree, reaching about 20′ tall, requires a infertile soil, and likes full sun. I don’t see them often in landscapes, but when I do, and it is in the fall – the color is striking on the finely textured foliage. There is one located in Northampton, MA by a walkway which I took photos of this summer and Instagramed by Cathy T – I will track down those photos for you soon to post here later.

Oranges and Golds of the Sugar Maples

Sugar Maple spotted in Wethersfield, CT.

Sugar Maple spotted in Wethersfield, CT.

Fall Colors_0005

One afternoon while babysitting my niece, I drove past this maple on my sister’s street in Wethersfield, CT. My gosh, I had to walk to it to take photos. Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum) make an impact when in full golden color – and this year in Connecticut, they have been breathtaking.

Close Up of Golden Leaves on a Maple Tree

Close Up of Golden Leaves on a Maple Tree

When my sister arrived home from work, I told her immediately, “I went down the street to take photos of that maple – its glowing.” She excitedly responded with, “I am so glad you said that; when driving down the hill, as the sun hits it – it is absolutely beautiful every year.” The tone in her response was as if she way saying, gosh, you noticed it too – that emotion you feel when you see a colorful autumn tree highlighted by the sun.

It is moments like that when you embrace fall. It helps to prepare for the oncoming winter by providing a sense of transition – and the Sugar Maple is one to have for oranges and golden yellows in your landscape. It prefers full sun and moist, fertile, well-drained soil and can grow up to 60 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Although this one was located by a sidewalk, these trees do not like poor soil or road salt and do best away from those scenarios. They require a lot of space since they are big trees.

Ginkgo for Yellow

Another yellow to be had in the landscape is by way of the Ginkgo biloba (a deciduous conifer), which most people are familiar with due to its unique fan-shaped leaves and its medicinal benefits – however, did you know it turns a yellow color in the fall? Additionally, it is very tough, can take difficult locations, and the yellow leave color in the fall is lovely – until all the leaves drop which can happen quickly – as in one day when frost hits it – but it is worth it up til that point, plus you may choose to collect the fallen leaves for crafts. Ginkgo trees do not have serious pest issues. They tolerate road salt and drought, unlike the sugar maples. Oh, and if you go buy a Ginkgo at the nursery, remember to ask for only male trees (‘Shangri-La’ or ‘Autumn Gold’ are examples) because they do not produce fruit – the fruit on the female trees are stinky and people find the scent unbearable.

Pumpkins in Broad Brook, CT

Pumpkins in Broad Brook, CT

One afternoon, sitting inside by my kitchen slider, I was mesmerized by the colors of the trees in my own backyard – our carved pumpkins were a nice orange, and I thought, “Gosh, I wish I could capture those tree background colors in a photo.” This photo above was my ridiculous lame attempt with my iPhone. I guess the autumn colors will be sealed in our minds, or if we are lucky enough – captured by people, like PJ Walter, to be viewed forever. Here’s another one of his shots. Thank you PJ for the permission to post and show your photos.

Photo by PJ Walter Photography

Photo by PJ Walter Photography; FB Page in Mid-Coast Maine, 2015

Cathy Testa

6 thoughts on “Getting Red, Orange, and Yellow in Your Fall Landscape

  1. Comment from GardeninaCity blog: That first photo is just amazing. We saw just about all the trees you discuss when we were at Longwood. The Sourwood is especially wonderful, and we could grow it in Chicago. Blueberries are a challenge here because of our alkaline soil.

    Response: I want a Sourwood tree! When I worked at a nursery, they planted one near their facility in a housing complex and it was so beautiful in fall – when I made a comment about that to the nursery owner, he said he wished he kept that tree for himself. LOL. It is beautiful. Cathy T

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.