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Trees the Colour Purple

These are trees that are really hard to photograph but look sensational in the garden. These are a must for beautiful contrast.

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So why is foliage purple?

Plant leaves carry three primary classes of pigments that are relevant to the process of photosynthesis. These pigments are chlorophyll, carotinoids and anthocyanins.

Green plants generally contain a lot of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll molecules are very good at soaking up blue and red light from sunlight so these plants appear green to the human eye. Green is the type of light used the least by chlorophyll. When a leaf has a high concentration of chlorophyll relative to other pigments, the leaf appears green.

The reverse of that, where plants appear purple, blue or red is caused by a higher concentration of anthocyanin to chlorophyll present in leaf. Anthocyanin is a pigment very good at absorbing green light from sunlight, so the foliage on these trees appear red, blue or purple to the human eye.

On the right is a lovely selection of purple-foliaged trees, that remain predominantly purple all year. Adding any of these to your landscape will definitely up the interest value! While most purple trees don’t tolerate afternoon sun, a position where they get morning sun is perfect. This is a small consideration in light of the amazing affect when you team purple foliage with grey or lime green foliage plants.

If straight purple is not quite your go but you need some colour foliage inspiration, here is a selection of spectacular trees for autumnal colour. These delightful deciduous varieties turn various shades of yellow, orange, red and purple across the cooler months particularly from March to May.  

The year-round stunning foliage of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Cercis 'Forest Pansy' showing its dramatic impact against green in the landscape

A beautiful small tree growing to approximately four metres in height. Produces dark purple leaves in spring, turning redish in the summer months before turning scarlet in autumn. Great multi-seasonal foliage colour. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L
This is a flashy crimson foliaged maple with dense upright branching. It has a compact growth habit with it's large crimson leaves in summer turning to gold and orange in autumn. Adds great colour contrast foliage. A small tree with greyish black bark that is lightly textured. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L 200L
This deciduous upright Japanese maple has stunning dark-purplish, almost black-red serrated leaves into late summer, turning bright crimson in autumn. Photos really don't do it any justice. The fruits are paired samaras (wing shaped) and hang from the tree in clusters. It is one of the taller of the japanese maples, growing to about 5m tall.
This deciduous shrub/tree has beautiful reddish/purple leaves darkening in summer. This variety turns a range of beautiful colours in autumn such as orange, red and yellow. The flower plumes are greyish giving an enhanced smokey effect.
This small, attractive tree has spectacular heart-shaped, burgundy coloured leaves that continually change colour throughout the year. A rich purple in spring, the foliage transforms to green over summer, followed by a multi-coloured autumn display in tones of red, apricot and gold. The branches have a distinctive, smooth, dark brown wood which contrasts well with the blossom like pink flowers that are borne before the re-emergence of leaves in spring. 50cm/52L
This is an attractive Birch tree with fine dark red to purple foliage with dark coloured stems. Its size and shape makes it ideal for group and avenue plantings.

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