Thanks for the positive feedback to last week’s fishing story. Yes, I really did haul that fish to the boat; no, it isn’t a plastic fish I carry with me for photo opportunities; and yes, it was fresh, fresh, fresh and oh so good that evening. In retrospect, I was really impressed by the number of fish 14 men can eat when they’ve been on the water for a day. It’s interesting to note how the male readership of this column skyrockets when I feature my fishing tales…….
There is no way to create a match of the outdoor majesty that abounds in Arizona. Accepting that realization, the goal of good landscape design is to mimic the natural beauty that surrounds us and to highlight naturally occurring vistas, mountains, and sight lines. Screening out man-made obstructions with hedges and vines allows us to capture the serenity that flows naturally from the mountains around us.
Our constructed landscapes should capture all four of the seasons and transition at the same time nature does. Creating balance and working with the environment are essential to all great landscape designs. I have several people on my staff specifically hired because of their design abilities to employ this landscape philosophy; their end results never cease to amaze me.
Although I’ve mentioned them before, I must repeat the two-fold benefits of planting at this time of year. First is the reduced risk of transplant stress. Second is that even though plants may lose their leaves to winter cold they continue to root. By the spring growing season these well-rooted plants will push out tremendous growth, proving the value of their fall planting.
If planting a new tree is on your agenda, there are choices to suit every taste. Just going into color now that will continue well into November is the Autumn Blaze Maple, Acer freemanii, my very best selling red maple. This tree grows to about 40 feet high with a dense oval-shaped canopy. It is a moderate water user but still maintains a fast growth rate. The most important feature of this maple is the reduced leaf tatter caused by spring winds. Even in the Chino Valley and Paulden areas, where wind takes a heavy toll on many plants, I have seen beautiful Autumn Blaze specimens take on the elements and come out on top.
For year-round color with the best orange in fall and spring flowers so bright you would think someone had flipped on the tree’s light switch, you have to consider the Redbud, Cercis canadensis. This is a small tree about 12 feet tall that most frequently comes in a multi-trunked form, the heart-shaped leaves up to 4 inches across. Adding to its charm, is fall coloring that changes from reds to yellows giving the tree an interesting orange contrast of colors.
For the past 4 years the undisputed best seller at my garden center is Quaking Aspen, Populus tremuloides, Latin for trembling leaf poplar. Growing in the wild at 6000+ elevations, this Arizona native is well suited for Yavapai County. Generally considered a high water user, my experience has proven otherwise. Our clay soils allow us to water this 60-foot tall tree just like the rest of my yard. Because many owners don’t realize this, they are prone to over water this popular beauty. Aspen has that classic pure white bark like a birch, but handles our clay soils much better than birches do.
True to its name Aspens’ dainty leaves dance or “quake” in the lightest breeze. For a natural look, Aspens are best planted in groups or bought as a clump of several in the same container. They are social trees and like to hang out together.
My favorite tree is the Bradford Pear, Pyrus calleryana. This flowering pear spectacularly heralds the onset of winter and the beginning of spring. The last tree to turn color in fall with radiant red leaves that usher in the start of the holiday season, it also announces the arrival of spring with vivid, pure white blossoms!
Keep an eye out for the hard-to miss red of the Virginia creeper vine; it’s gorgeous right now, ready to plant, and available at local garden centers. It’s near-perfection on fence lines and columns for a splash of red fall foliage.
Until next week, I'll see you in the Garden Center.
Ken Lain, who says, "my personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes," is the owner of Watters Garden Center at 1815 Iron Springs Road in Prescott. Lain is also a master gardener and certified nursery professional who has gardened extensively throughout the mountains of Arizona, and the host of "Mountain Gardener" a weekly radio show found every Saturday from 11-12 noom on KQNA 1130AM and 99.9FM.