Hawthorne Tree in Fall

Hawthorne tree in fall. (Photo: Shutterstock).

Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

LONGMONT – Fall is a time for celebration, with the end of season harvest and cool relief from heat getting us out into the garden to enjoy the autumn sights.  We revel in the changing colors, marvel at the sunflowers’ nodding heads, and laugh as squirrels gather nuts.

But what really gets us to stop and stare are the big, bodacious hips mother nature can produce.

Roses, hawthorns, and crabapple step up the show by setting fruit in brilliant hues and holding the gorgeous globes well into winter. In crimson, gold, and purple, the fruit covers these plants in an autumn glory long past the last falling leaf. Some are delicious, others not edible at all, but look fantastic in a fall table arrangement.

Not every plant is lucky enough to flaunt their hips, so when you’re looking to add a sassy show to your landscape, plant now for years of fall flash:

Crabapples, the smaller-fruiting cousin to standard apple trees, is popular in landscapes for its showy spring blooms. But the real jewels of this tree can be found later in the season with colorful, edible fruit.

Such a large plant will dominate the yard once it matures, so choose a variety that fits into the area. Dwarfs and semi-dwarfs are best for urban and suburban landscapes, while standards can take up to 35 feet of room.

Fruit as well as flower can differ by variety. Want to accent the garden with orange-red fall tones?  Try Indian Magic, a moderate-sized tree which starts early in the season with deep pink blossoms.  Sun-colored Sir Lancelot drapes itself in gold, and at a petite eight feet wide, is perfect for smaller yards. Fans of weeping crabapples will delight in Molten Lava, a unique variety with yellow bark and hot red berries.

Yet most of the modern crabapples don’t have the tastiest fruit; if you want to grow for the kitchen, plant Whitney, with medium sized red and yellow crabapples, or russet-colored Chestnut.

Choosing a rose for flower alone means you’ll miss the sizzling finale to their summer.  While many focus on perfume and bloom, savvy rosarians design fall hips into the garden.

Hips are produced after the bloom fades, swelling and ripening as fall arrives. Shop now to find the hips that best mach your garden’s décor. In colors from green to yellow, orange to crimson, there’s a hip for everyone and every style.

Rosa pulverulenta is a charming sensation, with cranberry-red hips and dainty foliage. For a native touch, try Rosa glauca, a large arching shrub with purple foliage and bronze fruit. Rugosa alba, a continuous blooming white flowered shrub, gets magnificent hips in orange red tones.

Rosa rugosa, a cook’s favorite, should be harvested just after the first frost kisses their hips. Fruity with a hint of spice, be sure to remove the hairy seeds before cooking with them.

Russian hawthorns (Crataegus ambigua) are a must-have tree for gardeners wanting a four-season plant. With their creamy white flowers, spectacular red berries and dark, feathery foliage, this is
a tree you’ll fall in love with.

Not everyone likes a plant with showy hips and a prickly personality. If you plan to work under or around the tree in your garden, look for something a little less thorny. And leave the fruit of this tree for the birds; though edible, the experience isn’t pleasant – they’re pulpy and tasteless.

By Carol O’Meara. Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.