Plant of the Month by Martin Fish
LIQUIDAMBAR – SWEET GUM
When it comes to autumn colour there’s a wide selection of trees and shrubs that provide bright, colourful foliage from October through until December that add seasonal interest to our gardens. One tree that is at its best through November is Liquidambar styraciflua – also known as sweet gum – and its many interesting cultivars. This is a deciduous, medium sized tree that has a compact habit and maple-like leaves that are green through the summer, but as soon as the weather cools down in autumn, they undergo a wonderful change. Worthy garden cultivars, both awarded the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) include Liquidambar ‘Lane Roberts’ that develops blackish-crimson leaves in autumn that stay on the tree for many weeks. Another is Liquidambar ‘Worplesdon’ that has deeply lobed leaves that change from green to a reddish-purple colour and then to a brighter orange red as the autumn advances. In medium to large gardens they make excellent specimen trees and will grow neutral to slightly acid, moist but well drained soil.
Martin Fish is a gardening columnist, broadcaster, speaker, RHS judge and all-round horticulture expert. He writes for publications including Garden Answers, Kitchen Garden and Which? Gardening.