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Trees for Autumn Interest – Oak Trees (Quercus)

Autumn can be one of the most visually striking times of the year. Many species truly come into their own around the period, and informed planting choice can produce a lot of interest. As October rounds out we’re working to put out a few more details on some of our favourite autumn trees, and today we’ll be focusing on three particularly beautiful varieties of Quercus, the Oak.

Quercus rubra | Red Oak

Firstly, we’d like to take a quick look at Quercus rubra, or the ‘Red Oak’. As the picture below illustrates it’s a highly appropriate name, with the trees displaying stunningly deep colours during the autumn, with orange-red to scarlet leaves depending on the temperature. It’s even refreshingly full during the winter, with browned leaves often hanging on to the tree for an extended period.


A snapshot of Quercus rubra’s vividly coloured autumn leaves

Adaptable to a wide range of soils, but preferring sandy loam and well-drained but moist soils, ideally in a sunny site. It’s able to tolerate dry soils and periods of summer drought, but only after being fully established.

A stately tree reaching an ultimate height of 25 metres and spread of 12, it’s often put to use in large gardens, parks, streets and avenues.

Quercus palustris | Pin Oak

Another stately tree, though only reaching an ultimate height of 20 metres, while maintaining an impressive spread of 12 metres. The horizontal branches are a beautiful sight, creating striking silhouettes in the winter.



Quercus palustris stands out with large, lobed leaves taking on a deep red autumn colour

Much like the ‘Red Oak’, the ‘Pin Oak’ serves well in large gardens and public areas. You’ll find it suits most soils except chalk, adapting well to moderately dry sites, and even moist-to-wet alluvial soils. Specimens prefer deep, nutrient-rich soils with an acidic to mildly alkaline pH, and will even tolerate areas which stand set in winter.

Quercus coccinea – ‘Scarlet Oak’

We don’t have this listed on the site, but feel free to contact us either on-line, on the phone, or in person if you’d like to sample an excellent specimen with many of the positive seen above, along and eye-catching autumn foliage and an extremely hardy character.

 scarlet oak

A Scarlet Oak displaying autumn foliage |©Jean-Pol Grandmont

Quercus coccinea shares the dimensions of Q. palustris, with a notable winter silhouette thanks to striking, horizontal branches. During the summer the tree displays bright green leaves with pointed lobes, turning to a dark, scarlet red in autumn (hence the name!).

Q. coccinea is particularly notable for hardiness. The tree is extremely frost tolerant, and also tolerant of moderately dry soils, drought, and heat. It will happily adapt to a wide range of soils, preferring moist sites with an acid to mildly alkaline pH.

If you’re still interested in trees for a sizeable garden or public space, we have plenty more large trees online, while our new Plant Finder tool can help pick a tree for a certain site. If you have any additional questions and queries, however, don’t hesitate to contact us, and we’re happy to help with advice on planting choice and technique.

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