Are you suf­fer­ing from fall colour envy?

Even if you can’t get the best colours this year, you can make changes now for next sea­son

The Southern Gazette - - SaltWire Homes - Car­son Arthur Coun­try Gar­dens Out­door de­sign and life­style ex­pert Car­son Arthur has be­come the voice of en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly land­scape de­sign and loves to help peo­ple max­i­mize their out­door spa­ces.

On a re­cent trip to Van­cou­ver, I re­al­ized I am very en­vi­ous of the au­tumn colours they en­joy on the West Coast. In my case, I in­her­ited some trees when I pur­chased my home, and then I planted other trees for spe­cific purposes — like ap­ples for fruit or cedars for win­ter in­ter­est.

I didn’t plan for fall, and now I have some se­ri­ous re­grets.

Thank­fully, there are some great ways to rem­edy this sit­u­a­tion be­sides plant­ing sev­eral spe­cific tree species like maple and gingko, which are known for their fall colour. Per­son­ally, I don’t have 15 to 20 years to wait for them to grow large enough to make a big im­pact. In­stead, there are lots of shrubs that can be planted in clumps to add some se­ri­ous im­pact next fall. Look to op­tions like burn­ing bush, pur­ple smoke bush and even red-twig dog­woods for that pop of deep gor­geous crim­son.

Be­lieve it or not, the colour that you see in au­tumn is al­ways there. The green that we iden­tify with sum­mer-leaf colour is in fact the chloro­phyll the tree uses to pro­duce food. When the nights be­come cooler, the trees stop pro­duc­ing food and the chloro­phyll starts to break down, show­ing the colour of the leaves.

I’ve been asked lately from read­ers why their trees don’t have the same colours as their neigh­bours, or why some trees have great fall colour one year and very lit­tle the fol­low­ing year. I’ve found these emails re­fer to maples, which in my opin­ion can be ab­so­lute show stop­pers, mak­ing them more no­tice­able in full colour or when they drop their leaves early.

Trees that are in stress are usu­ally the first ones that turn. Watch for the trees that are in the mid­dle of park­ing lots, or along city boule­vards, sur­rounded by pave­ment, as­phalt and con­crete. Those trees get less wa­ter and are usu­ally the first to turn as a re­sult. Early may seem great, but these trees are not as healthy as the ones that turn later in the sea­son and they of­ten go brown faster or drop their leaves al­to­gether. Giv­ing trees ex­tra wa­ter in times of drought helps them have stronger, health­ier leaves and a more sat­u­rated fall colour.

The other easy so­lu­tion for your trees also works re­ally well for your grass at this time of year. Aer­ate the lawn. Trees that grow in ar­eas with less com­paction in the soil tra­di­tion­ally have the best fall colours. By aer­at­ing the area around the roots of the trees, you in­crease the over­all health of the trees by al­low­ing the roots bet­ter ac­cess to nu­tri­ents and oxy­gen. Don’t be fooled though, this is not the time of year to fer­til­ize your trees with ni­tro­gen, used for in­creased fo­liar growth. In­stead, mulch heav­ily around the roots of the tree to hold more mois­ture in the soil for longer.

Even if you can’t get the best of fall colours this year, you can make some changes now for next sea­son.


The colour you see in au­tumn is al­ways there. The green we iden­tify with sum­mer-leaf colour is in fact the chloro­phyll the tree uses to pro­duce food.

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