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Wed, Nov. 13

The high country fall colors are in full glory

Boy, did I get razzed for the fish picture in last week's column. Many of you visited the garden center with fish tales of your own, but none was as grand as my story. Yes, we really did catch 500 striped bass on Lake Powell in three days, and was it ever fun. 'Nuff said.

Everything at the garden center now confirms that it's fall in the high country. Maple trees have begun to turn, so now is the best time to select the maple with the fall colors that really do it for you. If you're choosing a maple to plant in a windy area, I have two specific recommendations. Autumn Blaze Maple, Acer freemonii, is the best red-colored maple. An excellent shade tree in summer, come fall it really delivers spectacularly with its blazing orange-red leaves. This maple will grow to 40 feet with little to no wind damage in spring which makes it a great choice for any of the cities at this altitude.

My second recommendation is the silver queen maple, Acer sacchorinum, the fastest growing of all maples. It's a very fast grower, but uses half the water of other fast-growing trees like cottonwoods and willows. It sports breath-taking bright gold foliage from now through Thanksgiving. Because of their mirrored size and the stunning contrast of their red and gold foliage, autumn blaze and silver queen are traffic-stoppers when paired in the same landscape.

Another autumn treasure is the aspen, Populus tremuloides, an Arizona mountain native with a formal style ironically associated with a rustic cabin or traditional Western landscape. Classic white trunks make this a showpiece with or without leaves, but the fall colors are an amazing show of high country gold that never fails to please.

Aspens are good for tight spaces and narrow spots that may not accommodate the width of a larger shade tree. The most popular form at my garden center is the tree with three to five stems. These beauties stand 10- to 15-feet tall in their standard 15-gallon size containers. Look for the best of the crop right now. This is such a popular tree that garden centers bring in fresh truck loads of aspens in all sizes just for the fall color sales. This is a good time to buy and plant one of your own.

Don't let the back-breaking task of planting a tree keep you from adding it to your landscape. Have your garden center plant it for you. Especially with larger trees it's well worth the money. After two back surgeries, I don't plant my own trees anymore, I have a planting crew do it for me. Most garden centers either have on-site planting crews available within a few days or subcontract with other gardening services to do the planting. Just ask.

Every perennial tree or shrub that is worthy of space in your landscape should be fed with fertilome's Winterizer sometime before the end of November. All other plants should be cut down and replaced with specimens that really warrant your time and money. As I've said before, it's the most important feeding of the year. The food collected by plants in autumn is used to create and nurture next spring's leaves and flower buds. Also, this fall feeding promotes better plant growth beginning next February and March.

If you have some plants that have struggled this year, pump 'em full of Winterizer this fall, then hit 'em with a strong tree and shrub food next March. This will force these plants to either thrive or die next spring.

The question frequently asked about Winterizer is, "should I work the food into the soil?" The answer is no. "Just chuck and go." I've been using this granular food on my entire yard for 14 years now and find that working it in doesn't make a difference. Using a hand spreader I try to get the recommended amount of food on each plant, but never work it into the soil. The next rain will activate the food and force it through the root zone; yes, even through rock and fabric yards. Pallets of this food are on hand at garden centers now through early winter.

Some very good local gardeners are forming an African Violet Society starting Jan. 11. If you would like to receive information about this new group, contact me at my web site, www.wattersonline.com. Submit your e-mail information through the "Today's Garden Advice" link and I'll make sure you receive all the details. Whether you're new to African violets or an old hand with these fascinating beauties, this is your chance to learn more. I plan to bring in a specialty grower and some really different specimens just for this event. It should be informative and fun for all of us.

Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.

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