AS we say goodbye to the summer months and hello to cold days and nights, our woodlands are going through some spectacular colour changes, brightening the onset of winter here at RHS Garden Harlow Carr.

The colour for autumn is truly amazing and some of the best specimens can be seen in the gardens, but here are a couple of my favourites and excellent all-rounders.

Cotinus “Flame”. Family: Anacardiaceae.

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AS the name suggests, this Cotinus has spectacular fiery autumn foliage. Cotinus “Flame” is a large deciduous shrub with leaves that turn bright orange and red in autumn.

A fully hardy perennial, it has a bushy habit and grows to a height of six metres with a spread of three metres. Before autumn this large bush, or small tree, has rounded green leaves, with a hint of orange-red to the margins of new leaves. The bush is a neat rounded shape and can be cut back yearly to maintain size and to rejuvenate stem growth.

In the summer, Cotinus coggygria “Flame” produces cloud like billowy flowers, which are a pink colour, turning greyish, giving the Cotinus its more common name of the Smoke Bush. The plumes do resemble smoke from a distance.

The Northern Echo: cotinus

Autumn brings spectacular colour changes, with leaves turning vibrant oranges, yellows and reds, making a stunning addition to a large border, or a specimen shrub for the smaller garden. It can take 16 to 20 years to reach its ultimate height, and it grows well in semi-shade and direct sun, but prefers medium levels of water. It has average drought tolerance and looks at its best in autumn and summer, but has stunning interest all-year round.

Liquidambar styraciflua “Lane Roberts”

A BEAUTIFUL tree that is often planted solely for its vibrant autumn colours. Its large, star-shaped, lobed foliage is glossy green throughout the spring and summer before turning spectacular shades of red and purple in the autumn.

Also known as Sweet gum, Red gum, Satinwood and Alligator tree, “Lane Roberts” was named after a gynaecologist who delivered two children, both of whom became presidents of the RHS society.

This sweet gum cultivar is particularly reliable in Britain and won the Award of Garden Merit in 2002. Like many of the styraciflua cultivar, the bark is smooth rather than corky, and is most deserving of a space in the garden.

When planted en masse, or with other specimens, the autumn effect is both sensational and long-lasting. Maturing to a height of ten to 15 metres, it makes a good choice as a street or garden tree, and does best in fertile, welldrained soils, but does not thrive in chalky soils. All sweet gums have beautiful autumn colour, but this one of the most reliable.