Prairie land­scape filled with gold

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - WHAT`S ON - SARA WIL­LIAMS

“Not all that glit­ters is gold” and in our prairie au­tumns, it’s of­ten your neigh­bours’ trees. If you’ve been driv­ing through es­tab­lished neigh­bour­hoods in your com­mu­nity with a cov­etous eye to­ward their older trees, ablaze with golden au­tumn colour, here is a sam­pling of some of the trees you’ve prob­a­bly been look­ing at. Trees sel­dom of­fer in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, but if you’re quick off the mark next spring, you’ll have colour the same fall. (Re­mem­ber, big is not al­ways best. Large trees have had a larger per­cent­age of their roots re­moved; it will take them a few years to “catch up.” My motto has gen­er­ally been to never buy a tree taller than I am.)

Among those with yel­low-gold fall fo­liage are sil­ver maple, larch, bur oak, lin­den, bass­wood and Ohio buck­eye.

Sil­ver maple (Acer sac­c­ahrinum) even­tu­ally grows to about 50 feet or slightly taller with a spread of about 18 feet, and an up­right, oval form. An ex­cel­lent shade tree, it prefers a some­what shel­tered lo­ca­tion out of the wind, and deep, moist but well drained soil. It has at­trac­tive, light grey bark, pal­mately lobed leaves that are dark green above and sil­ver be­low (thus the com­mon name), and turn a clear yel­low in fall.

Larches are conifers but are not “ev­er­green.” Ev­ery au­tumn, they drop their nee­dles in a glo­ri­ous blaze of gold. Two species are avail­able to prairie gar­den­ers. The Amer­i­can larch, Larix lar­ic­ina, (com­monly known as the tama­rack and na­tive to our north­ern forests), reaches about 20 feet, with a nar­row pyra­mi­dal form. It prefers moist soil. The Siberian larch (Larix sibir­ica) is slightly larger, broader, and ex­tremely drought-tol­er­ant once es­tab­lished. Both are ex­cel­lent as ac­cent trees or, where space per­mits, as group­ings.

Bur oak (Quer­cus macro­carpa) are large (50 x 30 feet), high-headed, longlived trees, na­tive to Man­i­toba. They have straight trunks and a deep tap­root that al­lows un­der-plant­ings (peren­ni­als and shrubs) to thrive with­out com­pe­ti­tion. They grow in full sun or par­tial shade, are adapt­able to a wide range of soils from sandy through clay, and are very drought-tol­er­ant once es­tab­lished. The leaves are leath­ery, deeply lobed and turn yel­low through golden brown in the fall.

Bass­wood (Tilia amer­i­cana) and lit­tle leaf lin­den (Tilia cor­data) are more or less “cousins” and share many com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tics. Their main dif­fer­ence is size. While bass­wood will reach 50 to 60 feet, the lit­tle leaf lin­den tops out at about 30 to 40 feet. Both are amaz­ingly sym­met­ri­cal with a dis­tinctly pyra­mi­dal form, dense and low headed. They have dis­tinc­tive bracts (mod­i­fied leaves), be­low which are clus­ters of fra­grant yel­low flow­ers in mid-sum­mer, fol­lowed by pea-sized “nut­lets.” When you walk near or un­der a Tilia in bloom, you’re en­veloped in its pleas­ant fra­grance. Young trees are very shade tol­er­ant – mak­ing them ex­cel­lent can­di­dates for plant­ing near de­clin­ing older trees as even­tual re­place­ments. Both species pre­fer deep, fer­tile, evenly moist soil, but be­come fairly drought-tol­er­ant once es­tab­lished. Their leaves are heartshaped and toothed and turn a lovely yel­low in the fall.

Last but not least of these au­tumn goldie oldies is Ohio buck­eye (Aes­cu­lus glabra), one of the best shade or spec­i­men trees avail­able to prairie gar­den­ers. Small to medium in size (20 to 40 feet), it is trou­ble free, fully hardy, in scale with an av­er­age ur­ban lot, and should be much more widely planted. Large at­trac­tive, creamy yel­low flow­ers are formed in up­right pan­i­cles in early sum­mer, fol­lowed by the “buck­eyes” or nuts (which are poi­sonous, not ed­i­ble). The at­trac­tive fo­liage is pala­mate­ly­com­pound, each leaf re­sem­bling the palm of one’s hand and com­posed of 5 to 7 oval leaflets. Dark green through the sum­mer, they turn a lovely “an­tique gold” in fall.


A golden lit­tle leaf lin­den

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