maple

Denny Schrock

in search of fall color

October glory red maple colors later than most varieties of the species. This one in my yard is surrounded by Limelight hydrangea.

The fall color display in central Iowa has been spectacular this year. Just the right combination of warm, sunny days and cool, but above-freezing temperatures at night, along with a little stress from the driest September and October in six decades led to glorious golds, outstanding oranges, and rich reds. Yesterday’s rain and wind brought down quite a few leaves, but some trees will hold their color for a few more days, or even weeks in the case of many oaks and callery pears.

These ginkgo trees outside my office are at peak color. They'll all drop their leaves within a few days.

Before long, the brilliant foliage colors will be gone. Then I’ll have to be content with the memories and photos of the autumnal fireworks show. Fortunately, Timber Press sent me a new tool that will help. It’s the latest book from woody plant guru, Michael Dirr. Long regarded as the nation’s foremost expert on trees and shrubs, Dr. Dirr has published a new book that, like his previous Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, draws on his encyclopedic knowledge and years of personal experience with trees and shrubs. However, the new book, Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs, adds thousands of photos to the mix, too.

The cover of Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs

It’s odd to say that the new 950-page tome is downsized from the previous book, which is nearly 1,200 pages in length. It certainly doesn’t feel less hefty! With the inclusion of so many photos, Dirr had to leave out some of the nerdy horticultural details found in his previous work. For example, the number of red maples and hybrids discussed in the new book is 17 compared to 58 in the previous book. Similarly ginkgo dropped from 40 to 5 varieties, and dawn redwood decreased from 9 to 6 varieties. However, the book is still replete with Dirr’s personal anecdotes and observations. He has updated the book with more recent introductions and dropped some of the more obscure ones. The pictorial displays more than make up for the abbreviated text. And most gardeners will appreciate not having to sift through obscure varieties that they’re not likely to find at the local nursery anyway.

The size of the book makes it impractical to carry around as a field guide, but it will no doubt be a go-to reference for years to come. With a list price of $79.95, the book won’t be an impulse purchase for most. However, the timing of its release is perfect to place it on your Holiday gift wish list.

The dawn redwood in my yard has taken on russet orange hues this fall.


Denny Schrock

fall color in lake geneva

Brilliant orange sugar maples provide a backdrop to the pier at Covenant Harbor Bible Camp on Geneva Lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I went to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in search of fall color to photograph for an upcoming book on trees and shrubs. As a guest of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and the Walworth County Visitors Bureau, I was treated to gracious hospitality and peak fall color. The wealthy of the Midwest who built their summer homes around Geneva Lake employed famous landscape architects such as Frederick Law Olmsted to ensure that they would have beautiful, extended fall color on their waterfront estates.

Current visitors to the area can take advantage of this planned color extravaganza. In a unique twist in local regulations and covenants, the public has direct access to the lakefront yards of these estates by means a footpath that encircles the entire lake. I hiked several sections of the 21-mile-long trail, took advantage of more distant views afforded on the mail-delivery tour boat run by Lake Geneva Cruise Line, and split the difference by kayaking along the shore, too, in a kayak supplied by Clear Water Outdoor. Scroll down to see more of the autumnal beauty that I was treated to on these jaunts.

Even the Baker House, the lovely boutique hotel where I stayed, got into the fall color act. Right outside their main entrance, they have witch hazel which was in bloom as well as sporting a healthy display of autumn gold. The entire press tour group got a taste of Baker House hospitality at a reception in their restaurant and on the hotel grounds on Tuesday evening. But I was fortunate enough to enjoy the superb service of their staff for my entire stay in Lake Geneva. The hotel is conveniently located just a couple of blocks from downtown and the Riviera boat docks. The public boat launch (where I put in with the kayak) is almost directly across the street. And, it’s right on the lake path. It made for a wonderful combination of convenience and luxury!

The Baker House has a restaurant on the lower level and luxurious French-themed guest rooms on the second floor. Owners Bethany Souza and Andrew Fritz live with their family on the third floor.

The yellow straplike blooms of witch hazel are often overlooked because they bloom at the same time that the leaves turn gold.

Purple, maroon, and red Boston ivy foliage dresses up this concrete wall.

Weeping willow leaves catch the golden glow of late afternoon sun.

Golden leaves of green ash stand out against a pure blue sky.

A fiery sugar maple shades the Lake Geneva footpath.


Everyday Gardeners

Love a Tree Day

Today’s post is in honor of Love a Tree Day, which happens on May 16th every year. (Who knew?) I would write about my favorite tree, but that’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I have dozens of favorites.

With ash trees under attack by emerald ash borer, American elms barely hanging on against Dutch elm disease, and American chestnuts all but wiped out by chestnut blight, I feel that it’s important to create diversity by planting a wide variety of trees.

I’ve taken that to heart in my own landscape. On my half-acre lot I have planted the following trees: a callery pear, a serviceberry, five Alberta spruces, three Austrian pines, three Eastern white pines, a sweetbay magnolia, a Japanese tree lilac, a goldenrain tree, five arborvitaes, eight upright junipers, a dawn redwood, a Vanderwolf limber pine, a black gum, a blue Colorado spruce, a red maple, a weeping European beech, an Eastern redbud, a shingle oak, a ginkgo, a Swiss stone pine, a kousa dogwood, and I’ve allowed a squirrel-seeded bur oak to grow in one of the perennial beds.

This doesn’t even count the trees growing in containers: two Meyer lemons, a Valencia orange, an Oroblanco grapefruit, two bay laurels, and various dwarf conifers.

I’ll admit to punishing several “problem children”. Self-seeded cottonwoods, hackberries, chokecherries, box elders, and willows are removed from my flowerbeds where they all too often take root. I also dig out sprouting black walnuts that the ambitious squirrels bury in the planting beds.

After six years of planting, I think that my lot is about full enough of trees. I still want sunny areas for growing veggies and sun-loving flowers. So from now on, new trees will have to be dwarf. I’m envisioning dwarf conifers in a new rock garden…..


Denny Schrock

plant a tree for arbor day

Scarlet Brandywine crabapple

Today is a very important day with long-lasting consequences. And I’m not talking about the royal wedding. It’s national Arbor Day.

While individual states often encourage tree planting on other dates, the last Friday in April is set aside nationally as a time to better the environment by planting a tree. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a flowering tree, a conifer, a small tree, or a specific type of tree, such as Japanese maple or flowering crabapple. Determine what type of tree is best for your site depending on what interests you, the space available, Hardiness Zone, and environmental adaptability of the tree, and get planting!

Black gum is also known as tupelo.

I learned a lesson in my own yard about choosing the right tree for the right place. Six years ago when I moved into a new home, I planted hundreds of trees, shrubs, and perennials within a couple of weeks. (At last count I have 40 trees on my half-acre lot.) I could determine sun and shade patterns in the yard pretty easily, but it took me some time to learn about variations in soil conditions on the lot. As it turns out, I planted a ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) in an area with poor drainage. In that spot, the subsoil is blue clay, so moisture won’t sink in, even though there is a slope. I planted a black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) in a section of the yard that is well-drained with a tendency to become quite dry in late summer because of competition from nearby established pine trees. After five years of observing poor growth on these trees, last year I decided it was time to switch the trees’ locations, so I transplanted them. Black gum is native to swampy areas, while ginkgo is an upland tree that requires good drainage. This year I expect both trees to put on good growth because they’ll be better suited to the microclimate in which they’re planted. Perhaps in a few years they’ll catch up with the red maple which was planted at the same time, and has already grown to more than 25 feet tall.

Ginkgo tree