Fall Foliage Trees: The Good, the Bad and the Invasive

We take our consolations in life where we can. I live in a cold climate and dislike the onset of winter, which brings harsh weather, along with shoveling snow, scraping ice off car windshields, etc. As if the dreariness and the drudgery weren’t bad enough, winter robs me of one of my chief passions in life: my outdoor plants. Oh, sure, I can still enjoy my evergreen shrubs and ornamental grass; and other plants inject some visual interest into the winter landscape via interesting branching patterns and whatnot. But none of this makes up for the loss I’ve suffered. I’ll mourn till spring.

That’s why I drain every ounce of satisfaction out of fall foliage season. Whether it’s “leaf peeping” on vacation or selecting superior fall foliage plants for my own yard, fall foliage is a big deal to this Hyperborean: It’s my ultimate consolation as another long winter stares me in the face.

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Smoketree

If you should ever find yourself luxuriating in the French Riviera, and in the unlikely event you grow tired of the sand and sea, a walk in the hills will introduce you to the unique woodlands of the Mediterranean.   There, among the scrubby oaks and umbrella pines you will find a familiar bush or small tree, the European smoketree – in its native environment.

There are only two species of trees in the genus Cotinus.  One is the American smoketree, the other is its close relative from Europe.  For both, their claim to fame is the wispy clumps of filaments that look all the world like smoke.  The mirage has given rise to other names such as mist tree, cloud tree, wig tree, and Jupiter’s beard.  By whatever name, the site of this tree is what Minnesota garden writer Don Engebretson has called “one of the most arresting shrubs available to…gardeners today.”
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Dogwood: Beautiful Tree With Many Uses

Writer-naturalist Donald Peattie once wrote, “Lovely as it is, dogwood stoops also to be useful.”

What’s in a Name?

For all the beauty of this tree, the common name of dogwood may come from something less lovely – “dagger.”  This, in turn, may actually come from its early use as a skewer, or thin piece of wood used to hold meat together.  The tendency of its wood to not splinter made it popular for this purpose.

The scientific genus name, Cornus, derives from the Latin, cornu, or horn, in reference to another use of its hard wood.  The species name, florida, is also from Latin, flos, meaning flowery. 

Seasonal Color

The blossoms of dogwood add a welcome touch of color in early spring.  If space allows, the white can be accentuated with a background of conifers.  Bright autumn foliage and red berries that linger into winter add a bold stroke of color to any landscape design. Read more…

Space Needed for Backyard Orchard

Q:      How much space do I need for a backyard orchard?

Well, this depends on your purpose.  A single, self-pollinating peach tree may satisfy a peach lover.  Or you may be like Stuart Kennedy of Cincinnati who just planted 10 dwarf apple trees because his wife makes great pies and they want to watch their budget in these tough economic times.  Stuart has also added a 2,200 sq. ft. garden, a grape vine and a pear tree as the family tries to move toward growing its own food.

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Using Trees and Shrubs to Reduce Noise

Noise from vehicles and others sources can reduce one’s enjoyment of being outdoors.  Dense, tree buffers can reduce noise to levels that allow normal outdoor activities to occur.  For instance, a 100-foot wide planted buffer will reduce noise by 5 to 8 decibels (dBA). If one uses a barrier in the buffer such as a landform can significantly increase buffer effectiveness (10 to 15 dBA reduction per 100-foot wide buffer with 12-foot high landform).           Read more…

How to Beat the Summer Heat with Trees

Trees properly placed around a house can save you money and help cool your house in the summer.  This is according to the U.S. Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research, but the concept is easy for everyone to understand.  Go outside sometime this summer and stand in the sun for a few minutes.  Then walk over to your nearest tree and stand in the shade.  I bet you will notice that the shade the tree provides is much cooler than standing in full sun.  This same concept can be replicated by planting trees in the right places to cast shadows on your house during different times of the day.  Find out where to plant around your house and what trees are best. 

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What’s So Hot About Autumn Blaze?

It’s August now, and I admit that part of me is starting to think about the upcoming fall season. It’s the landscaper part of me that’s looking ahead; the outdoor enthusiast part of me is quite content with the current season and has no desire to rush the summer!

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Designing Underneath a Shade Tree

The Arbor Day Foundation approached me about designing several plant combinations that their members and fans could use to create plantings of aesthetic interest and which provide function in the landscape.  Over the next few months I will be sharing information behind these plant combinations and how they can be used as “do  it yourself landscape designs”.  Previously I outlined the Hedgerow Bird Shelter, aka the Bird Magnet planting.  Let’s now explore the Shade Tree Planting. 

Shade Tree Planting

While working on the design for the Shade Tree Planting, the primary goal was to produce an attractive planting that could be installed below a mature shade tree.  Often times the area below a mature shade tree becomes problematic for the homeowner due to the canopy of the  mature tree shading out the turf below as well as the trees surface roots sometimes becoming unattractive.  The Shade Tree Planting is designed to be installed below the canopy of a mature shade tree and offer months of flowering interest. Read more…

How to Create Clumps of Birch Trees

Paper Birch and River Birch are some of the most popular landscape trees.  These deer resistant trees have gained popularity due their unique bark and great yellow fall color.  You may notice that some yards have a single tree birch tree while others have clumps or multiple birch trees.  If you enjoy the multi stem look here is how you can do it yourself.

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Designing Conservation Buffers

The USDA National Agroforestry Center’s publication, Conservation Buffers: Design Guidelines for Buffers, Corridors, and Greenways offers over 80 illustrated guidelines for designing conservation buffers.

Conservation buffers are strips of vegetation placed in the landscape to provide a variety of ecological, economic, and social benefits to society.  They are called by many names, including wildlife corridors, greenways, windbreaks, and filter strips to name just a few. 

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