Published on 09/23/96

For Fall Foliage Show, Bring Mountains to You

Soon floods of people will be pouring over north Georgia. It's the annual fall foliage exhibition in Nature's mountain gallery.

Everybody loves the season's brilliant colors. But you may not care for the streams of traffic winding through the hills of the big show.

If you won't go to the mountains, though, why not bring the mountains to you? Brilliant fall leaves are the big attraction. And you can bring those right to your own yard every year. Just plant the right trees.

"Many reliable shade trees give us excellent fall color," said Mel Garber, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia Extension Service. "Some are more commonly known while others are lesser known but deserve wider attention."

To make the prospect even better, you don't even have to wait to get started. Fall is the best time to plant trees and shrubs in your landscape. Fall- planted trees have the rest of fall and all winter and spring to grow the roots they need to carry them through the stress of Georgia summers.

You can also buy bare-root and ball-and-burlap trees to transplant into your yard in late winter.

Here are some of the more colorful trees Garber says you can buy from Georgia nurseries and garden centers.

* Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinesis), which provides bright orange and red fall colors, thrives in the lower coastal plain of Georgia where few other trees develop outstanding fall color. It's adapted to the piedmont area, too. It's hard to find, but ask for it -- a few nurseries are starting to have it now.

* Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) has excellent yellow to scarlet-red fall color. In the same family as the poinsettia, it also bears a showy display of waxy white fruit. It's also known as popcorn tree. It's fairly easy to find in nurseries, and it's a very good tree that's reliable even in south Georgia.

* Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba) is unsurpassed in the fall for the clear yellow color of its fan-shaped leaves. It's adapted throughout the state and is readily available in nurseries.

* Scarlet oak (quercus coccinea) is usually the last tree in Georgia to develop fall color. The foliage becomes brilliant red in late October or November. Unfortunately, it isn't easy to find in Georgia nurseries. It's hard to transplant, so you need to get it as a container tree or as a small ball-and-burlap tree.

* Sourwood (Oxydedrum arboreum), a native in the northern half of Georgia, is seldom planted in yards. But it has almost every desirable trait as an ornamental tree, including picturesque shape, excellent green foliage, attractive flowers and seed pods and brilliant red fall leaves. Sourwood is hard to transplant, too. You have to get it as a container plant or a small ball-and-burlap plant. But it's a good tree that grows well in the north and central parts of the state.

* Red maple (Acer rubrum) produces bright red to yellow colors and is adapted throughout the state. It can be bought from most Georgia nurseries. Don't overlook the maples for fall color. As a group, they offer the greatest potential for fall colors in Georgia yards.

* Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is well known for its brilliant yellow, orange and scarlet fall colors. It's readily available in Georgia nurseries and garden centers.

* Southern sugar maple (Acer floridanum), a native tree which produces bright colors, is not very common in Georgia nurseries. But ask for it. It's becoming more available and deserves to be used much more in the deep South.

* Trident maple (Acer buergeranum) is another somewhat new maple. It is a small, handsome and durable tree with potentially outstanding fall color. It can be grown throughout the state, but may be hard to find in south Georgia. It's commonly grown in Tennessee, so it should be easy to find in north Georgia.

* Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is one of the most spectacular of the small trees that can be grown in Georgia. It's available but expensive because of its slow growth. You can get seedlings, which provide good fall color, at reasonable prices, but the better trees are more costly.

Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.