Not all trees are created equal when it comes to autumn colors, and this is their season. Autumn is also the ideal planting window for trees and tall shrubs. Increased garden success is achieved when plants are showing their colors. The days are cool and the soil is warm, so plants start with a burst of new root growth.
Most properties don’t have many trees. You can count on one hand the number of trees in the average landscape. Trees stand out in any landscape like anchors that bring together the foundation of a good plan. Also, don’t forget that trees increase the value of your landscape more than spas and grills.
Don’t waste money by cutting corners. Trees are where the landscape value is and no place to pinch pennies. Buy the best-looking tree you can find; bigger is better. Nice looking trees at the garden center turn into big, bold specimens as they mature. An ugly tree only stays ugly its entire life. Cut landscape dollars on shrubs, flowers and hedges so your budget can afford a few specimen-sized trees to enhance your outdoors. Below are the showoffs of fabulous fall foliage.
Red Prescott Maple
This very fast growing shade tree blazes in reds and orange through autumn. It produces a tall, narrow tree with ascending branches more resistant to wind and storm damage. Widely used as a street tree, driveway lining or any place tight spaces demand, the red Prescott maple will not spread past 20 feet with the brightest of reds in fall.
This little maple is famous for blazing red foliage that ignites a landscape. It is well adapted to mountain clay soils, sun, wind and cold winters. Once rooted in a landscape, it’s easy on irrigation, and perfect for fire-wise landscape needs. Though sometimes mistaken for a Japanese Maple, this mountain variety is the far hardier of the two trees. Whether grown as a short, multi-trunk tree or a 10-foot shrub, it is on my list of preferred “water-wise” plants.
These trees are for gardens that are exposed to the wind and subjected to micro-bursts or other weather anomalies. This autumn show-off thrives not only in harsh environments but also neglect. The attractive umbrella shape turns a brilliant crimson; no other tree produces such a vibrant, broad range of fall reds and orange. It can serve dozens of uses: as a shade tree, street tree, accent or first yard specimen. The ornamental pistachio is the ideal choice for flanking driveways, or planted in pairs to meet overhead at street sides. Grow this colorful low-water-need tree against a solid evergreen background to provide intense contrast to any landscape.
This is the last tree to turn autumn red, which happens in December, but it also celebrates the other three seasons of the year. It produces gigantic masses of white flowers in spring before the leaves appear, followed by glowing green leaves through summer that are disease- and bug- resistant. In winter, the clean winter outline is upright to pyramidal when young and becomes broadly oval at maturity, which resists wind damage. The autumn colors are disputed to be brighter than maple and rival the purple of Raywood ash.
Regal Petticoat Maple
This newly developed tree is striking as a shade tree. Large maple leaves are glossy green with a dark velvet purple underside. In autumn, the leaves are equally striking with aspen gold on top and a bright magenta pink on the bottom with accents of red, orange and salmon throughout the tree. The regal petticoat maple thrives in our high pH soils and matures above 35 feet with age. Petticoat has proven itself even in commercial landscapes and is very hardy against wind damage.
For the past four years, the undisputed best seller here at Watters Garden Center is quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides, or trembling leaf poplar. Growing in the wild at 6,000-foot-plus elevations, it does well as a cultivated specimen. Aspens have the classic pure white bark like a birch, but unlike a birch, handle our clay soils even better. True to their name, the dainty leaves shiver and quake at the slightest breeze. For a natural look with aspens, plant them in clusters or buy a clump of aspens in the same container. They are social trees and like to hang out together in groupings. These are best planted before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Until next issue, I’ll be helping gardeners plant just the right trees here at Watters Garden Center. QCBN
By Ken Lain