Today, my leaf raking chores are interrupted by opportunities to admire the great fall color on our deciduous trees and shrubs. I keep returning to Parrotia persica, or Persian Ironwood.
Uncommon in gardens, perhaps because it is not offered at the big box stores, I found ours at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens fall sale a few years ago. Ironwood sports interesting hide-like bark as well as superior foliage color: burgundy, red, orange and yellow leaves. From the same plant family as witch hazel, Parrotia persica blooms in very early spring with blooms resembling tiny, red spiders.