The Fall of a Fall Favourite

By Lois Scott, Master Gardener

Sometimes it feels like my garden will never reach the ‘mature’ stage even though I have been gardening in the same spot for 36 years.  There are a variety of reasons for that, but one major one was my need to remove plants that are now considered invasive. “Invasive species are considered one of Canada’s greatest threats to the survival of our wild animal and plant life.  Invasive species kill, crowd out and devastate native species and their ecosystems”.

So, who were the super villains in my garden?  I’m looking at you, Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) and also you, Barberry (Berberis).  I was initially truly disappointed when I realized they needed to go but then my short attention span came into play and I was on to the next thing.  What new plants could I get to replace said villains?!!!  And they are environmental villains:

Burning Bush
Japanese Barberry

Burning bushes are certainly very visible at this time of year due to their intense red foliage, but Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) makes a wonderful substitute for both Burning Bushes and Barberry.  They are native to Ontario, will grow up to 2.5 metres tall, have white flowers in spring and their fall colour is dramatic.  They will grow in moist or dry areas and they attract pollinators and songbirds.  There are actually many native shrubs that are very ‘ornamental’ and worthy garden additions.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

At the risk of blathering on about native plants, one small benefit for me is that if I choose a native plant that is not aggressive (rampant spreader etc) and is suited to the conditions of the site (right plant, right place) I won’t find myself having to hack out this year’s fan favourite that turns into next year’s invasive disaster.  Always a good thing for me and the wildlife and pollinators in my garden!

4 thoughts on “The Fall of a Fall Favourite”

  1. I thought choke cherry bushes were invasive. I’d like a dwarf bush with fall colours.

    Keep safe and healthy, Mary 👍



  2. Aronia melanocarpa is a native shrub and isn’t invasive. It may sucker but this can be controlled. There are a couple of more compact cultivars such as ‘Iroquois Beauty’ (4’ h x 4’ w) and ‘Low Scape Mound (2’ h x 2’ w).

    For smaller shrubs with good fall colour, and depending on height and spread, you could take a look at Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ (Fragrant Sumac) (2’ h and up to 8’ w) or Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ Tiger Eyes: (Tiger Eyes Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac)—the latter is more orange and yellow (3-6’ h and w)

    Dwarf Physocarpus (Ninebark) cultivar such as “Tiny Wine” (4’ h x 4’ w).

    Diervilla lonicera (Northern Bush Honeysuckle): Also cultivar: “Kodiak Red” (4’ h x 4’ w).

    I just planted two Viburnum acerifolium (Maple Leaf Viburnum) and the leaves are stunning orange and red now. It’s fairly adaptable to different conditions but is more suited to partial shade to shade. The projected height is around 4’ and a spread of about 4’.


      1. The parent species of Aronia melanocarpa and Rhus aromatica can be found at Grow Wild in Omemee and Natural Themes in Frankford. GreenUp Ecology Park may also carry them. Grow Wild is usually wholesale but will have a minimum retail order during certain periods over the summer. The parent species are usually larger so if size is a concern then there are the smaller cultivars. The cultivars like Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low,’ Aronia melanocarpa ‘Low-Scape Mound’ are by Proven Winners and you could inquire about getting them in at Horlings as it is listed as as a distributor on the Proven Winners site. Another listed distributor not in Peterborough but not far is Baltimore Valley garden centre. You could also try contacting Griffin’s. The Aronia melanocarpa ‘Morton’ (Iroquois Beauty) might be harder to find as it is a product of the Chicagoland Grows program—I believe Multiplants in Quebec is a grower and it seems easily found in garden centres in that area and the Ottawa Valley. It’s worth asking one of local places that carries the Proven Winners stock.


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