By Stephanie Schupska and Jim
University of Georgia
Midcap, a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, encourages others to add color to their yards with more than just flowers.
"In the fall," he said, "we get a nice range of colors in native trees – red and orange in the red maple and in the sugar maple, golds and oranges."
Another of his favorites, the ginkgo, turns a "brilliant yellow" and then overnight drops all its leaves. Before the foliage turns brown, "you have a nice, golden lawn underneath."
No one knows exactly when trees will lose their green.
"Everyone likes to predict when we'll have good fall color," Midcap said. "It depends on temperature and moisture levels and the health of the tree. If we get proper temperatures this fall, we have a good possibility of having outstanding fall color."
Midcap's first Georgia plantings of red maples, redbuds, dogwoods, silver bells and hollies have “almost become a jungle now," he said.
Here are his suggestions for making a yard pop with color with native and introduced trees:
Red maple is a swamp native reaching 40-60 feet. Young trees are pyramidal, becoming rounded to irregular at maturity. Bright red fruit follow reddish spring flowers. The bark is smooth and gray. Fall leaves develop into glorious yellows and reds. "October Glory" and "Autumn Blaze" offer reliable color.
American yellowwood is an uncommon native tree not widely sold. Trees are low-branching with broad, rounded crowns. Spectacular white spring flowers may bloom only in alternate years. In fall, the foliage turns butter-yellow. The larger branches and trunk are smooth and gray. Hardy statewide, it grows 30-50 feet tall.
Sourwood is one of the best native trees for fall color. It's delicately pyramidal, with drooping branches. Young leaves mature to a lustrous, dark green and turn red to maroon in the fall. The white flowers come in 4- to 10-inch clusters in June and July. Sourwood is great for naturalizing native sites in sun or partial shade. It reaches 25-35 feet and does best in north Georgia.
Persian parrotia is a rather rare, small tree. The pest-free summer foliage changes to purple, orange and yellow in fall. The bark exfoliates, revealing dark and light patches on twisting, multiple trunks. Small, maroon flowers appear in late winter. Mature trees are often wider than they are tall. They do better in north Georgia on well- drained soils.
Chinese pistache is a handsome, tough tree that's oval and rounded. Its pest-free leaves are lustrous, dark green with small leaflets, changing to rich orange-red in fall. The bark is gray, with exfoliating flakes. Pistache is a medium shade tree, reaching 30-40 feet. It's hardy statewide, even through drought and infertile soils.
Elegant katsura is pyramidal early on and becomes upright and oval with age. The leaves mature to blue- green, then turn a rich yellow to apricot in fall and smell spicy when they drop. It has brown, shaggy bark. With no serious insect or disease problems, it has to be watered during droughts to prevent early leaf drop. It grows 40-60 feet tall and is hardy statewide.
Ginkgo is so old its unique, fan-shaped leaves have been found in fossils. Young plants establish slowly. It becomes a beautiful, mature specimen when the green leaves turn a brilliant, clear yellow in the fall. Male trees are best. Females produce fruits that smell rancid as they mature.
"Fall is the best time to plant trees," Midcap said. "New plants develop strong roots in the cooler, moist fall soils."
(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor and Jim Midcap is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)