CO-Horts Blog

Saturday, November 1, 2014

R.I.P. 2014 Fall Color

Posted by: Eric Hammond, Adams County Extension

This fall has been spectacular.  The weather has been mild and all the warm days and cool nights have created some really beautiful color on our trees.   However, at least in my neck of the woods, most trees gave up the ghost and dropped their leaves over the last few days.   If you are interested in the science of fall color there was a post on the subject a while back which can be found here but, if  you're more in the mood for some visual stimulation, here are some pictures in tribute to the season of color that was.

Green ash (left) and white ash (right)

You really can’t recommend planting Ash right now with the green menace looming but it was a great year for fall color for both of the common ash species.
Mature Green Ash
Colorado Master Gardeners riding under a canopy of mature White Ash
I somehow missed taking a picture of aspen this fall but most of the poplars (Populus sp.) were quite showy this year.  Cottonwoods can be problem plants in many landscape settings but in a rural or more natural landscape they really can be attractive.

Volunteer cottonwood along the shore of a lake
If yellow is your color, it was also a banner year for Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) and some bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) even had a semi-attractive fall this year.
Kentucky coffeetree
Bur oak's best effort in the fall

Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) is one of the few species which is still showing off its leaves.  Chanticleer is probably the most common selection of this species due to its better branch structure but, there are many varieties of callery pear available and they all have nice color in the fall.

Callery pear

Autumn blaze and the other freeman type (Acer x freemanii) maples are not the best choice for the high pH soils that dominate much of the Front Range but they sure are a show stopper in the fall.
Autumn blaze maple 

Close-up of autumn blaze maple foliage
If you are looking for red fall color but want a plant better adapted to our soils, it was also a great year for some of the less well know (but probably better adapted) maples like Caddo sugar maple (Acer saccharum 'John Pair').  This is a section of sugar maple from a sub population of the species growing in Oklahoma. 
Caddo Sugar Maple

Caddo sugar maple leaf close-up

Another option might be Manzano maple (Acer grandidentatum 'Manzano').  Manzano maple is a more tree like form of bigtooth maple which can turn an attractive orange-red in the fall.
Manzano Maple
Crimson spire oak (Quercus robur x Q. alba 'Chrimshmidt') is an upright plant which is a cross between white oak and English oak.  It also has red fall color although, this year it turned more of a russet color (it also has its own Facebook page and it appears to have more friends than me... and I'm a person.  So you know it has to be a good tree) .

Crimson spire oak

Ginnala and tatarian maples (which some actually consider variations of the same species) are good examples of smaller trees that get a red to purple fall color.

Ginnala maple
Close-up of ginnala maple leaf

Let not forget about the shrubs.    All of the common species of sumac (Rhus sp.), sand cherry (Prunus besseyi), burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and many others put on a show this autumn.

Staghorn sumac
Sand cherry

Skunkbush sumac

Dwarf burning bush 

I could post more.  It really has been a fall to remember, hopefully everyone has been able to enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. Spectacular photos, Eric! I have to agree. I've only lived in Colorado for 9 years, but this was the best fall color I've seen. I'm sad to see it go. And for all the negative remarks about callery pear (mostly made by me regarding their flower odor), they do have incredible fall color. Great tree for those that want purple-red.