Stately Liquidambars

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Ornamental kale and cabbage make a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Plant pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses now to replace summer annuals.
    • Tulips can paint the spring garden with almost any color you choose. Plant them now to enjoy their bright flowers next April.
    • Garlic sets can be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose from hard-neck, soft-neck or Elephant garlic varieties now available.
    • Plant cover crops in the garden where summer plants have finished. Fava beans and crimson clover will grow through the winter and improve your soil for spring planting.

Stately Liquidambars

If you’ve always wanted to see the fall colors in New England, do the next best thing and plant your own deciduous tree for fall color. Now is the ideal time to shop for such trees — while their leaves are showing their brilliant fall color. Few trees can equal the foliage of the liquidambar, or sweet gum tree. From yellow and orange to burgundy and red, these trees have it all. The sweet gum is one of the most reliable trees for autumn color in our area.

The tree is named for the reddish resin that exudes from the bark known as storax. The common name ‘sweet gum’ comes from this sweet balsamic sap which, when exposed, hardens into a fragrant gum.

Fall color is not the only attractive feature of a liquidambar. Their bright green, maple-like leaves are attractive in spring and summer. In the winter, their prickly, round fruits hang down from the bare branches like little ornaments. They are a favorite for flower arranging.

Liquidambars have a narrow, upright habit of growth. They can reach 40 or 60 feet in height with a spread of 20 to 25 feet. Since they branch low to the ground, they make excellent screens. They can be planted 10 to 15 feet apart to make a tall untrimmed screen.

When planted on the west side of the house, they will offer filtered shade from the hot afternoon sun. When they are in brilliant fall color, this back lighting makes them especially handsome.

Liquidambars are easily trained as lawn, street or patio trees. During the first two or three years, leave on the lowest branches. If you want to be able to walk under the tree, prune out its lower branches when the tree begins to form a sturdy trunk. Do not cut the central leader to create a rounded head. The tree will just send up another leader to take its place, and this may spoil the tree’s appearance.

When sweet gum trees are grown from seed, they may vary in size and in fall color. If you buy them after the leaves have turned color, you can choose the one that you like best.

Several varieties have been selected for their fall color and these are reproduced by grafting. These cultivars include ‘Palo Alto’ which turns a fiery scarlet in the fall; ‘Burgundy’ which has purplish leaves that hold late into winter; and ‘Festival’ which has pink, orange and yellow leaves on the same tree.

Liquidambars need full sun for best fall color, but they will take some shade. They make nice street trees, but do not plant them under power lines since they grow so tall. And make sure to plant them well away from sidewalks and driveways as their roots will crack nearby pavement.

For best appearance, water them once a month in heavy soils, and twice a month in sandy soils through the summer. They do well in damp locations.

The sweet gum is an outstanding deciduous tree that looks at home both in woodland settings and in residential gardens.

Colorful Trees for Fall

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Fragrant hyacinths make a colorful display in a garden bed, or can be grown in pots. They come in red, pink, blue and white and can be planted now.
    • Naked lady amaryllis have lovely, fragrant pink flowers that bloom in late summer with little or no care. Plant the bulbs, available at local nurseries, now.
    • Protect the pond from the worst of the leaf fall with a fine-mesh net over the surface of the pond.
    • Ornamental kale makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Plant lawns now to have them ready for next summer enjoyment. Ask at your nursery for the best grass seed for your situation.

Enjoy the beauty of fall with colorful trees

The cold nights of fall bring beautiful colors to the leaves of deciduous trees. Liquidambars, maples, Chinese pistache, Raywood ash, European white birch, dogwoods and flowering pear trees brighten the landscape with their colorful leaves. Now is a good time to choose trees that have fall color, and fall is an excellent time to plant trees of any type.

When choosing a tree, it is important to decide just how large a tree you want. Width is easy to measure and for height, figure that a building is about 10 feet tall per story, plus attic height. So a one-story house may be 15 to 20 feet tall, and a two-story house 25 to 30 feet tall. Most trees are at least 30 feet tall and some grow to 60 feet or more, providing good shade over the roof for summer cooling.

Liquidambar and European white birch are both tall, slender trees. White birch trees grow to 45 feet tall with a spread of 30 feet. They turn bright yellow in the fall. Their white bark is particularly attractive in winter.

Liquidambar trees grow to 60 feet tall with a narrow pyramidal form. Their fall colors range from yellow, peach and orange to flaming red and burgundy. They are tall, stately trees which make attractive street trees where overhead wires are not a problem.

Chinese pistache is a round-headed tree that turns a fiery ball of red, orange and green in autumn. It is a very eye-catching tree. It grows to 35 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Raywood ash trees are fast-growing with fine-textured foliage that makes a dense, rounded crown. They grow to 35 feet with a 25-foot spread and turn a beautiful reddish-purple color in fall.

Red maple trees have striking fall color, grow to 40 or 50 feet tall, and make wonderful shade trees. Big leaf maple is native in this area growing along stream banks to 60 feet tall. Its bright yellow leaves in fall glow like candles among the evergreens. Japanese maples turn brilliant reds and yellows in the fall, lighting up the yard.

The flowering pear trees are known for their beautiful white spring blossoms as well as their colorful fall foliage. They grow 35 to 40 feet tall with a 25-foot spread, and turn red and gold late in the fall season, holding their colorful leaves most of the winter.

Dogwood trees are beautiful small trees growing 20 feet tall and wide. In spring, white, pink or red blossoms cover the tree and in fall their round leaves turn beautiful shades of red. Japanese maples are another small tree with delicate green or red leaves throughout the summer which turn a bright scarlet in the fall.

Choose trees now for fall beauty in your yard.

Tree Selection

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses can be planted now to replace summer annuals.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.
    • It’s time to divide overgrown perennials that bloomed in the spring or early summer. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties.
    • Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.
    • If you have dogwood, walnut, birches and maple trees, now is a good time to prune them because they will bleed sap when pruned in early spring or late winter.

Selecting Trees for your Property

Trees are the backbone of the garden. They provide shade and shelter and bring year-round beauty through their foliage, flowers, fruits, bark and branch structure. Because trees are so important to the landscape and take years to reach maturity, it’s worth taking the time to choose them carefully.

First consider the location where you want to plant a tree and look at the size limitations. Allow space enough for the full-grown tree, both above and below ground. Place the tree away from any underground utilities, and plant only low-growing trees under overhead wires. Locate trees at least 5 feet away from curbs and walkways and at least 8 or 10 feet away from foundations.

What role should the tree play in your landscape? If you need a shade tree, choose a tree with a wide canopy, like fruitless mulberry, Raywood ash, or sycamore. Red maples, Albizzia, flowering pear trees and Chinese pistache also make fine, large shade trees.

If you want to block a view, choose tall, dense trees.
Redwood trees and cypresses will make tall screens while Photinia trees fill out nicely over the top of a fence.

If you’re looking for a specimen tree to serve as a focal point, choose trees with interesting foliage or a showy display of flowers. Always consider where flowers and fruit may fall, and avoid planting messy trees near patios and walkways. Dogwoods, flowering cherries, flowering plums and crabapples, Japanese snowbell and Japanese maples are some good choices. These trees grow no more than 25 feet tall and are very showy in the front yard or near the patio.

Do you want an evergreen tree, or a deciduous one, which drops its leaves in the winter? Deciduous trees give you shade in the summer and let the sun shine through in the winter. Evergreen trees make good screens and windbreaks. Though evergreen trees have leaves year-round, older leaves may fall intermittently throughout the year, or drop during one season.

Trees that have bright fall foliage color are always nice to have on the property. Fall is a good time to shop for these trees when you can see their colorful leaves and decide which ones you like the best. Liquidambars, maples, dogwoods, flowering pears and Chinese pistache all have wonderful fall color. So do white birch trees and ginkgo trees, which turn a bright yellow before they drop.

Fall is the best time to plant most trees. During the fall and winter, trees will be able to establish their root systems so they will be ready to get growing next spring!