The secret to a beautiful autumn garden is to
plant trees that have colorful fall foliage. If you
don’t have room for trees, plant shrubs, but
never burning bush, which can be invasive.
Choice trees include:
amur maple Acer ginnala • This
multistemmed maple grows slowly to 15 feet
by 15 feet and has brilliant scarlet leaves in
the fall. One of the few maples with fragrant
flowers, it can be grown as a small specimen,
hedge, or even a container plant.
paperbark maple Acer griseum • Another
slow-growing maple, it reaches a height of 20
feet and a width of 15 feet. It produces bright
red and orange fall color.
serviceberry Amelanchier x grandiflora
This multitrunked three-season tree grows
to 25 feet. It has white spring flowers, edible
summer fruit, and orange to red fall leaves.
american hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana
An understory native that grows slowly to 35
feet, it does well in heavy shade. Fall color
varies from bright yellow to orange and scarlet.
variegated giant dogwood Cornus
controversa ‘Variegata’ • It reaches a height of
10 feet with rich autumn foliage tinted red and
orange. The cultivar ‘Variegata’ has silvery-
cream-edged leaves. Branches are tiered.
franklinia Franklinia alatamaha • This rare
beauty grows slowly to 10 feet in southern New
England, with late blooming fragrant white
flowers and orange and red fall foliage.
Miskovsky’s landscaping style is expressive and masculine, with a robust use of rocks, masonry, and cascading water. Though he plants plenty
of perennials and shrubs, such as purple-berried Callicarpa to sustain fall
interest, he is especially bold about using trees to make large statements.
Miskovsky knew that the best view of this garden is not at eye level, but
looking down on it, so he chose trees that produce a layered effect, including several unusual variegated giant dogwoods. There is also a special
selection of the evergreen Southern magnolia called ‘Edith Bogue,’ which
survives the Cape winters nicely.
Especially notable is a franklinia tree. Named by its discoverer for his
friend Ben Franklin, it is descended from several trees found blooming
in the American wilderness in the 18th century, when early settlers were
cataloging the horticultural riches of the New World. A second expedition
to the site collected additional seeds a few years later. But the species must
have been trembling on the brink of extinction as subsequent forays failed
to locate any more. Thanks to that second expedition, it survives today in
cultivation. It is only winter hardy in the warmest parts of New England,
such as the Cape, and some years, when weather conditions are right, it
performs the neat trick of blooming so late in the year that its large white
camellialike flowers overlap with its scarlet fall foliage to create a remarkable white-on-red effect.
“It’s a hell of a plant,” says Miskovsky. “It’s beautiful at
the end of September, but the summer people aren’t here to
enjoy it when it blooms.”