September is almost upon us, with its return to school, meetings and activities and…the garden. We’ve talked to several customers in the past week or so about shade trees, as homeowners begin to plan for fall projects in their landscapes. Let me say it right now, fall is an excellent time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials, almost anything. It’s also the best time of the year in the Okanagan Valley but that’s just my personal opinion.
Shade trees have had a rough summer in some locales. I see more leaf scorch than usual, particularly on Norway maples and I suspect some trees will not show the same intensity of colour in the fall and may even lose leaves earlier than usual.
As much as we plant trees to enjoy the colour of their leaves, their form and their blooms where applicable we also rely on trees to solve issues in our landscape. Two of the three trees in my garden were planted solely to provide shade and screening on the west side of the house. The ‘Autumn Applause’ ash is on the southwest corner of the house where the summer sun is the most intense, while the ‘Crimson Sentry’ maple screens our deck from the mid-late afternoon sun. The third tree is an ‘Autumn Blaze’ maple at the far end of the garden. While its roots have become problematic in the raised beds in the vegetable garden its leaves are so breathtakingly beautiful in autumn I can forgive.
I am always looking for new trees to grow in our small nursery in Trout Creek; trees that I think will do well in our soils and climate, trees that will solve problems for homeowners and trees that have great foliage, form or flowers, in other words perfect trees!
Help in my quest has often come from a gentleman who represents one of our garden centre suppliers. He travels through the valley twice a year calling on clients and I make a point of saving my questions for him so I can tap him for his great knowledge on trees. I’m a “tree guy” and he’s a “tree guy” so we connect on that and many other levels. We go out to the nursery to walk through the rows of trees-I ask and he answers.
In his quiet and low pressure manner he’ll say “Here’s a new tree that you might want to think about.” Last fall we sat down to review my order and he suggested we try a tree that his company had been looking at from Europe. Alnus x spaethii is a hybrid of two alder species, very popular in Europe as a street or park tree. I read the description in the catalogue “Rapid growing tree for streets, parks or landscapes. Serrated coppery-purple leaves in spring, lustrous green in summer. Normal to moist soil but can tolerate dry conditions when established. Grows well in poor soils due to its nitrogen fixing ability. Grows 40-65 ft. tall and 15-20 feet wide.”
We planted some this spring at the nursery and they look promising. To my mind Joe is like the Rick Steeves of trees; if he recommends it chances are very good you’ll be happy you took his advice. I’ve never had a bad meal at a Rick Steeves-recommended establishment in Italy and I suspect this new tree will be just as satisfying.