Autumn is a wonderful time to walk around the garden and absorb the change of season. Brilliant berries appear and foliage ranging from mahogany to orange and yellow creates a dazzling display on many trees and shrubs.
Fruits come in all shapes and sizes. There is the spectacular beautyberry (Callicarpa) with its vibrant purple fruit that the birds seem to devour as soon as it is ready. Then there are viburnums with berries ranging from the succulent, edible, red fruit of the American cranberry-bush (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) to the glossy blue of the smooth witherod (Viburnum nudum).
Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) produce a fruit that looks like a large swollen raspberry or a small Christmas ornament. The native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) has smaller, oval-shaped fruit. These fatty fruits ripen in the fall and are often an important food source for migratory birds. Other fruits, such as those of the viburnums, have a low fat content and so last longer on the bush and rot less quickly.
Persistent fruit such as bayberry (Myrica) and some crabapples (Malus) are an important food for wintering birds such as finches and sparrows. Many fruits that last through the winter make beautiful displays both indoors and out. The holly family (Aquifoliaceae) also contains many wonderful examples. Remember, when growing hollies you need a male and a female plant to get berries.
Viburnums are incredibly versatile shrubs that tend to be underused by homeowners. They can be grown in full sun to part shade. Most of them tolerate a wide range of soils. They are easy to take care of and don't need to be heavily pruned. The arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) is one of the most shade tolerant, while the witherod viburnum (Viburnum nudum) tolerates wet soil. Most viburnums make good informal hedges.
Viburnums tend to set better fruit when planted in groups where they can cross-pollinate. For good fall foliage and fantastic fruit, try Viburnum dilatatum 'Erie', Viburnum dilatatum 'Iroquois', Viburnum opulus var. americanum 'Wentworth', and Viburnum opulus 'Compactum' (a nice dwarf variety). For a wonderfully, fragrant, deciduous shrub along a walkway or underneath a window, try the compact Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii 'Compactum') which flowers in May.
For foliage, there are a myriad of choices. Some shrubs have exotic hues all summer long, such as the midnight-black leaves of ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius Diabolo®) or the shrubby, purple-leaved St. John's wort (Hypericum androsaemum 'Albury Purple').
Other shrubs come into their prime in autumn. Many deciduous azaleas turn fiery red once the season changes. The foliage of the royal azalea (Rhododendron schlippenbachii) turns a glowing yellow, while native azaleas such as the flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) and the pinkshell azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi) turn deep shades of orange and red. One of the most spectacular shrubs for fall color is the native highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum).
Here are some trees and shrubs with good displays of fruit or nice foliage.