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Sun, Jan. 26

High country colors of fall beginning to emerge

Raywood Ash is known for its spectacular fall color.

Courtesy<p> Raywood Ash is known for its spectacular fall color.

Everything at the garden center now confirms that it's fall in the high country. Maple trees have begun to turn, making this 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 a specific recommendation. Autumn Blaze Maple, Acer freemonii, is the best red-colored maple that suffers little or no wind damage. Growing to 40 feet tall, it is an excellent shade tree in summer. Come fall it really delivers spectacularly with its blazing orange-red leaves. I chose it as an accent tree by the street in our home's landscape.

Raywood Ash, Fraxinus oxycarpa, boasts a perfect globe shape that almost looks manicured, but without care grows to 30 feet high and equally as wide. The size is perfect as a street tree or for a shade tree in small yards. It looks great as a single specimen and even better in a grove for more widespread shade. It does especially well on the hotter south and west exposures. Although it is planted mainly because of its heat and drought tolerance, I think its real claim to fame is its fall color.

The dark green foliage is just now exhibiting signs of the attractive wine red to royal purple colors that show through fall. In many of my past landscape designs I have combined it with several other heat-loving companions for a real show. I like to plant Raywood Ash with Chinese Pistachio, Chiltalpa, and Golden locust. They look great together and require the same care, water and soil.

Another autumn treasure is the Aspen, Populus tremuloides, an Arizona mountain native with a formal style that, ironically, is associated with rustic cabins or traditional western landscape. The 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 larger, wider shade trees. The most popular form at my garden center is the tree with 3-5 stems. These beauties stand 10 to 15 feet tall in their standard 15-gallon containers. You'll find the best of the crop available right now. This is such a popular tree because of its fall color that garden centers bring in fresh truckloads of aspens in all sizes. This is a good time to buy and plant one of your own.

Don't let the backbreaking task of planting a tree keep you from adding its beauty 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 the planting crew at the garden center do it for me. Most garden centers either have on-site planting crews or subcontract with other gardening services to do the job. Just ask when you purchase your tree.

As I've said before, fall fertilizing is the most important feeding of the year. The food collected by plants in autumn is used to create and nurture plant growth beginning next February and March as well as next spring's leaves and flower buds.

Every perennial tree or shrub that's worthy of space in your landscape should be fed with ferilome's Winterizer sometime before the end of November. All other perennials should be cut down and replaced with specimens that really warrant your time and money. If you have some plants that have struggled this year, pump 'em full of Winterizer this fall, then hit them with a strong tree and shrub food next March. This will force these plants to either thrive or die by next spring.

I conduct gardening classes at Watters Garden Center every Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. Today's garden class is "Landscape Principles Made Easy"; on Oct. 11, the class topic is every gardener's ultimate challenge: "How to Keep Critters and Weeds out of the Garden." Classes are free and on a first-come-you-get-a-free-chair basis. You're welcome to bring your own comfortable chair and a cup of coffee. I guarantee you'll be a better gardener after each class.

You can also tune in to my radio garden show, "Gardening in Granite," 7 to 8 a.m. each Saturday on KYCA 1490AM. This garden program's target is to provide timely advice for local gardening.

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

Ken Lain, owner of Watters Garden Center in Prescott, is a master gardener and certified nursery professional who has gardened extensively throughout Yavapai County.

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