Rhododendron albrechtii. Rhododendron (Ericaceae) is one of the great garden genera and more than 800 species and very many hybrids are grown. Most species are evergreen and although famous for their spring flowers are not autums subjects. However those sections which are generally known as 'azaleas' include a number of deciduous species, and some of these are amongst the best plants for an autumn display. Rh. albrechtii comes from Japan, whence it was introduced by E H Wilson and invariably has yellow autumn tints. Bodnant, Wales.
Rhododendron atlanticum. Kew, UK. Some of the best azaleas for autumn colour originate in the USA. This east coast species remains compact and turns a reliable vivid scarlet.
Many hybrid azaleas have the Caucasian and Turkish Rh. luteum as a parent. This June-flowering species has a wonderful perfume and develops excellent autumn colour. Holker Hall, Cumbria.
Rhus javanica. Despite its exotic name, this species is widespread in the wild, occurring throughout the Himalayan chain and as far east as Japan and is hardy at least in southern Britain. It is often known as Chinese Sumac, Rhus chinensis. All the sumacs (Anacardiaceae) are deciduous and develop superb autumn colours. Most are toxic and contain a number of chemicals used in pharmacopeia. Kew, UK.
Rhus trichocarpa. This small tree from Japan and China makes an excellent subject for a large garden. Knightshayes, Devon.
Rhus typhina. Stag's-horn Sumac(h). This weird north American shrub has thick bristly shoots and long candle-like inflorescences. It makes a brave autumn show. Dartmouth, Devon.
Rhus typhina 'Dissecta'. This highly cut-leaved variety is popular in many gardens. It differs from R. glabra 'Laciniata' which has hairless stems. Kew, UK.
Rosa virginiana, Bodnant, UK. Roses have many merits, but few would be chosen for autumn coloration. The exception are a number of semi-evergreen species such as the Japanese Rosa rugosa which is used extensively in amenity planting. Another species rose which is grown principally for its autumn colour and berries is R. virginiana from the SE USA, pictured here.
Like Rosa, Rubus is a large rosaceous genus which rarely displays good autumn colour. R. crataegifolius, from eastern Asia, is a rare exception. This deciduous shrub grows to 2.5 m and has edible, raspberry-like fruit. Wallington, Northumberland.
Salix (willows) is another genus without much meritorious fall colour. An exception is Salix lanata, a rare Scottish native. In the author's garden the leaves eventually colour butter-yellow (usually in December) and then persist for much of the winter, as seen here.
Sapium japonicum. This rare Euphorbia-relative from Japan, Korea and China provides excellent autumn colour if a suitably sheltered spot can be found. Holker Hall, Cumbria.
Sorbus alnifolia. This curious whitebeam from north-east Asia resembles no other species, and the combination of golden foliage and pink berries has a unique effect. A handsome young tree in autumn colour. Howick Hall, Northumberland.
Sorbus alnifolia. Close-up of berries and foliage. Bodnant.
Sorbus cashmiriana has no foliage merit, but the large berries hang through much of the autumn. Author's garden, Hexham, UK.
Sorbus commixta from Japan and Korea is perhaps the finest of all rowans for autumn colour. Kew, UK.
Sorbus commixta. Autumn foliage. One of the best of all small trees for autumn colour.
Sorbus eburnea is an apomictic (seeds without sex) Himalayan species originally known as 'Harry Smith' after the Swedish plant explorer. It has a strict upright habit and large clusters of white berries. The leaves turn purple but fall early. Author's garden, Hexham.
Sorbus fruticosa is one of the Chinese S. koehniana group with spreading, even drooping branches and good autumn foliage which contrasts well with the white berries. Author's garden, Hexham.
Sorbus fruticosa contrasting with other autumnal subjects. Author's garden.
Sorbus glabrescens is a close relative of the Chinese S. hupehensis, but has a more drooping habit and the leaves stay bluish-green in autumn. Author's garden, Hexham.
Sorbus hupehensis, showing autumn colour and its more erect habit. The berries are a pinkish-white. Howick Hall, Northumberland.